The idea behind Bemz was formed when Lesley Pennington wanted to redecorate a sofa in her summer house. She quickly realized that there was no businesses selling complemantary products for IKEA furniture.
- The sofa was perfect but I wanted a different cover for it and IKEA has this business model where the cover is removable. So I thought this must be a business idea to produce designer covers for IKEA’s sofas, and then I googled it and there wasn’t anyone doing it. So that’s how it’s started, she tells us.
Today Bemz designs, produces and sells covers for IKEA sofas together with, for example, bedroom textiles and curtains in 35 countries worldwide, with France, UK, Sweden and Germany as the company’s biggest markets. Every order is custom made and delivered straight to the customer.
- We have thousands of possible product combinations, but we have, for example, covers for over a hundred different IKEA sofa models and nearly 300 textile choices, says Lesley Pennington.
"Important That Ikea Likes What We Are Doing"
Bemz has now been around for ten years and grown by 15-20 percent every year with a turnover of nearly 53 million SEK (€ 5.7 million) in 2014. Lesley Pennington explains that the company focuses on growing rather than making a profit. In the short term, Bemz therefore will spend more money on marketing and at the end of this year the plan is to launch a new website.
Lesley Pennington visited the Nordic eCommerce Summit
She thinks the main reason for shopping at Bemz is because the company offers an individual product that can feel relevant and meaningful for each customer.
- We can offer them something which is very personal and I think that resonates with consumers. And then there is the fact that there are millions of IKEA sofas in the world and that creates an opportunity for us. We have been international from the very beginning. IKEA has said they will sell 50 billion euros by 2020, so it is a huge platform for us to deliver our products.
How is the relationship between Bemz and IKEA?
- We don’t work closely with IKEA, but it is very important for us that they like what we are doing. We see that we add value to their products. I think it is very important for IKEA today that people don’t think about their products as disposable. We are part of their eco-system and we add value, says Lesley Pennington, continuing:
- Sustainability is at the very core of our DNA, because from the very beginning it is about giving a sofa a new life and textiles are a great way to reuse something. You are not throwing your sofa away, you can wash it and you can move it somewhere else and get a new cover. We only use 100 percent natural textiles and work within the European Union, so everything that we do is focused on sustainability.
"Customers Want to Be Treated as Individuals"
Lesley Pennington recently visited the Nordic eCommerce Summit where she talked about me-commerce as the new e-commerce. Her idea is that the general customer does not see the need to take in offers and information if it does not feel relevant. The customer of today is a lot different from, for example, the customers of the 60’s when most people did not see a problem with having exactly the same sofa as everyone else that they knew, since that meant they belonged to a certain group.
- I think customers have changed. Customers today do not form this mass market anymore. They want to be recognized and treated as individuals.
I suppose that goes very well with the Bemz business idea?
- Exactly. IKEA is a wonderful company and their products are wonderful. But today it is more important to say who I am than to reflect someone else’s brand. It is all about creating your own personal style. You know, the biggest compliment that someone can give you is if somebody says “Wow, that is so you!”
Lesley Pennington has previously worked for Apple Computer in Silicon Valley, where she got the idea of selling products that are complementary to another brand. According to Lesley Pennington, that is a common way of working in, for example, the mobile phone industry, but more or less unheard of in the furniture industry. Before Bemz entered the market, that is.
- I see IKEA as a platform and what I am doing is adding value on top of their platform. So it is a similar kind of idea. I don’t come from the textile industry and I think that is how new businesses can be created; when you come from one industry and apply that business model to, in my case, the furniture industry where it hadn’t been done before.