Dominic Speelman has a knack for hitting upon a very good idea. More specifically, he has a knack for hitting upon the idea that makes such, sound common sense that you can’t quite believe somebody hasn’t hit on it before. His first lightbulb moment came back in 1999, when Dominic was working as an estate agent in Mayfair, bemoaning the fact that much of his day was spent touring “mostly middle-aged women” around properties they had no intention of buying, and who merely fancied a post-lunch snoop.
“I was working on commission,” he explains, “so I needed to solve the issue, and had the idea to film all of the houses and upload the videos.” I generated an interactive floor plan, and that eventually became the 360° system we now use to navigate our way around everything from a hotel suite to the tube system.” The key to any good business idea, he says, is to look at what would make your life easier and spot the opportunities to sell that concept on.
It was by this logic that the idea for buyfair.global was born. “My business partner and I were chatting about the day he had spent digitising the assets for billboard makers Clear Channel. A few years ago, you used to call up and negotiate over the phone for the price of a billboard, now it’s all done online. He asked if there was anything like that in the furniture and design industry, and I thought, `No, but there should be!’ The conversation took place over several bottles of wine, so he said to call in the morning if I was still interested — I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep!”
The concept, once more, was devilishly simple: to tackle the systemic problem of overstock with an online auction site designed with B2B transactions in mind. Speelman, thanks to his work with MAKE International, had better insight than most into the struggles faced by independent designers. “Obviously brands have always had problems with overstock,” he explains, “but over the last couple of years, that curve has just shot straight up. I think part of that comes down to the rise of China‚ who priced so many local makers out of the market with cheaper mass production. But of course, the problem comes when your company is demanding growth, and you end up buying product in enormous batches that you can’t shift.”
“So, it all started with considering what we could do about overstock, but became a more fundamental issue. I have two young daughters and I’ve been on climate marches with them. It made me think, why are we making so much all the time if we can’t shift what we brought out last year and the environmental impact is so high? Stores are asking for newness three times a year now, so you’re constantly having to keep up with that demand.” The irony, he says, is that customers don’t actually want something new all the time. “I think if you have a really great product there’s no need to change it every year.”
Enter: buyfair.global, a marketplace offering a brand-safe alternative to overstock, while connecting buyers and sellers to level the retail playing field and create much-needed value for all sides. “Let’s say a newly opened hotel need 100,000 glasses for its restaurant. They can order them online, to be delivered in vast quantities from overseas at huge environmental cost — or they could turn to the company with 100,000 glasses they can’t shift sitting in a warehouse.” In this way, explains Speelman, the idea grew from a simple business solution, to a great, green idea. “The world has changed so much and everyone is now aware of the threats of climate change. If we can help by at least using some of the products that are out there, then brilliant.”
The potential, Speelman believes, is huge. “I think we can be bigger and better than eBay — because those sites do a job for the consumer, but if you start offering B2B solutions and the ability to buy multiple lots, then who knows where that could lead.” And would he consider moving into the notorious world of fashion overstock (Burberry alone has burnt £90m worth of stock over the past five years)? “We are aiming to prove the concept first. Home and gift is my area of expertise, and we are targeting hotel chains, restaurants — any business that needs that type of product, and it’s endless. If this continues to grow, then I foresee it reaching into every and any industry facing the same issues.”
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