One of the UK's largest e-tailers has set an ambitious £500m revenue goal as it bets on the shift to online sales sparked by COVID-19 sticking.
Talking to CRN, Buy IT Direct CEO Nick Glynne (pictured) said the Huddersfield-based firm faced the choice of either "hunkering down and waiting for a recession", or investing in further growth for the business, which expects to turn over £300m this year.
The firm behind Laptops Direct and Servers Direct has also just taken on a new COO in the shape of former Mothercare COO Keith Basnett.
Soaring online sales during lockdown have reportedly bolstered Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' fortune to the tune of $24bn.
But Glynne said Buy IT Direct is betting on a more permanent shift to online sales.
"The challenge at the moment is: do you hunker down and wait for a recession to hit; or do you have the confidence to think that the world has changed and that that some of that big shift to online seen in last three months will remain?" he said.
"The lift that everyone thought would happen over five years has been condensed into a few months. How much of that will stay? The gamble - or judgement - is that it's here to stay and that we're in a very confident position for the next two or three years. Rather than seeing COVID as something to hunker down with, our confidence has increased."
Buy IT Direct has set itself a 2022/23 revenue goal of £500m, with new hire Basnett brought on board to help bolster the operations side of the business.
Glynne said the search to find someone to help take some weight off his shoulders had taken two years, and that his direct reports had risen to an "unsustainable" 27.
"It sounds arrogant but revenue is easy in our game," he said.
"Operations is the thing that causes most entrepreneurial businesses to suffer when they get to a certain size, because the departments become disjointed. Having a big hitter like Keith allows us to join up those departments.
"Coupled with that, we probably under invested in top management for too long. But it's taken two years to understand what we need and invest in someone that we're probably a bit small for us, that we can grow into."
Glynne claimed Buy IT Direct's post-February revenues have been 54 per cent higher than anticipated, as its consumer and SMB clients rushed to buy laptops, web cams and remote access products.
Despite it being "touch and go" at one stage, its team of 120 drivers carrying out two-people deliveries were able to continue delivering IT, furniture and kitchen appliance as normal.
"The government said transport is a key area and that we should go ahead," he said, adding that about 100 of Buy IT Direct's 400 office staff have begun to "drift back" to the office.
Competing with the likes eBuyer in IT, Victoria Plumbing in bathrooms and Wayfair in furniture, Buy IT Direct's 800-pound rival remains Amazon, and Glynne listed thwarting the giant etailer as the thing that keeps him awake at night.
"Amazon are this juggernaut that's coming from everyone. How can you step out of the way of that juggernaut and still make money and grow? That's the puzzle that you never permanently solve, but for the next two to three years we've found a route that steers away from all the competition," he said.
Bathrooms and furniture will be the next big categories to go predominantly online, Glynne predicted, although he emphasised that Buy IT Direct has no plans to pursue these two areas at the cost of its Laptops Direct and Servers Direct brands.
"Many people told me to give up on IT, but I see it as core to what we do. It's not just sales: we've got 40 engineers in the business," he said.
"They say that shifting boxes [in IT] will ultimately have its day due to commoditisation and Amazon. But we've proved consistently that there's a bit market out there and that we can do things in a unique way. Even though it looks like there's no margin, I don't buy the fact you can't find ways to supply them differently and make money."
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