How did you come to call the Coffs Coast home?
I came to the Coffs Harbour area with my family in the mid 70’s, we left Tarro a small town near Newcastle for a working trip around Australia and this was as far as we got. I’ve been lucky enough to travel extensively in Australia and overseas and I can honestly say that the Coffs Coast is the only place I want to live and that it’s possibly the most undervalued place in the world.
Tell us a little about Vast Interiors…
It’s a wonderful local success story, Vast started in Toormina nearly 20 years ago as a tiny direct importing furniture business and has grown to 30 stores around the country, most of which are owner-operated. The focus was on eclectic, sustainable, recycled and solid hardwood timber furniture. It has grown from a basic warehouse style of business with furniture stacked on top of each other, that had a mainly Balinese design influence to today’s modern and open show room with a range of furniture to suit any home, including many design styles such as: Coastal, Boho, Tropical, Scandinavian, Industrial, Country, Shabby Chic, Hamptons and Retro just to name a few.
I believe that being able to individually source and pick unique designs and quality furniture from all over the world, to complement the diversity of home styles found on the Coffs Coast is a real plus of our offering. Many other retailers don’t have this diversity in style and stock available to them. Which I think sets us apart.
The key difference between Vast and many other furniture retailers…. quite simply, is that our furniture is built to last. It’s uniquely designed, well-made and strong (and on top of that, we use up to nine coats of lacquer to preserve the grain!). This gives our pieces a much better chance of lasting several generations.
We are also direct importers, so we only keep a small amount of stock on hand and sell our stock off the floor. This means, that if you find something you like, it’s best to get it when you see it. Particularly, with our original pieces, as we may get something similar, but NEVER the same again. Although we can order special requests for customers seeking something unusual, the lead time can be up to six months, so it’s best to seize the moment if you fall in love with a special piece!
Vast is not interested in being a “bland brand” and I’m always striving to maintain an eclectic mix of products and styles that is different from anything you will find at another retailer.
What have been your biggest lessons learnt to date in being a business owner?
One of the biggest lessons I think any one in business can learn is that no matter how well you plan, it can still fall apart through no fault of your own sometimes. It could be external influences that impact your business negatively, but this if often an opportunity to diversify, change and improve things for the better.
Also, I think it’s important to not fall into the trap of judging your week or month on one bad day and remember to breathe through it all. To add to this, it’s also incredibly important to be able to step away from your business, to have time for yourself and your family too. Finding this balance is always hard, because we all think that no one will look after our business as well as we will. But finding the right staff and trusting in them to do as good a job as you (or better) is the best thing for you and your business in the long run.
How do the latest design trends impact your business and how do you keep up to date?
We definitely have to be on trend or leading the trend when it comes to home design, styling, colours, homewares and furniture. Keeping up to date with this is one part of the business that I absolutely love. It’s the fun part!
From overseas trips to our suppliers’ warehouses to International and Australian Furniture Fairs and Expos, not to mention constantly keeping up to date with interior design publications and social media trends, it’s a time consuming but rewarding part of the role.
What do you see as being the biggest driving forces of your business?
I don’t see a single driving force, but rather a combination of friendly and knowledgeable staff, which results in a good customer service experience and a unique quality product that keeps people coming back. So, really, it’s all about customer loyalty and service experience.
What marketing and or sales activities do you find most successful?
A combination of print and social media has proved to work best for me with the occasional targeted call to action advertising campaigns on TV and Radio as well.
I do enjoy the direct contact I have with my customers on our social media especially with Facebook. I think it’s an awesome way to instantly connect with your customers and for them to interact with you. It also is a great medium to share new stock, sales, stories and experience right away with our followers. Keeping them connected with us and up to date.
Top tip for anyone just starting out in business on the Coffs Coast?
Be passionate about what you want to do, because being in business is tough, so loving what you do is what keeps you getting out of bed in the morning and making your business a success.