Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Ecommerce Age meets Keiran Hewkin, co-founder of ‘sofa in a box’ brand Swyft

Founded in 2019, direct-to-consumer furniture maker Swyft is now one of the UK’s leading ‘sofa in a box’ brands, and has just launched its first ‘bed in a box’. Swyft delivers over 70% of its product the very next day, offsetting 200% of the carbon generated by its supply chain while at it.

Ecommerce Age recently spoke with the brand’s co-founder, Keiran Hewkin, to find out more about Swyft’s success to date. 

Why did you create the Swyft business?

My background has always been in  manufacturing – oil and gas, petrochemicals, automotive. I then decided to move out of London and applied for a job with a bespoke furniture maker, as a production planner. The idea for Swyft came about while I was running the factories there and I started thinking about how furniture or upholstered furniture in particular, actually has a very small amount of ‘worked-on time’. From start to finish a sofa takes about 10 hours. But the wait time to get it to a customer is months and months. Meanwhile, you can walk into a car dealership, buy a 60 grand car and drive it away the same day, without any inventory issues or delay. 

You launched in late 2019, a few months before the pandemic hit UK shores. How did that impact the early days of the business?

Initially, we saw an immediate impact. Demand fell off a cliff. Everyone stopped advertising. Then quite quickly, demand started to pick back up again and then, all of a sudden, it just went crazy. We didn’t benefit from that as much as more established players because we don’t take an order book. Unless we have it in stock, we don’t sell it. We also had issues getting parts and keeping our colleagues safely socially distanced. We changed our factory space three times in 14 months as we added new employees to the team. 

Did you have any previous experience of running an online business?

A decade ago, my first business venture was an outdoor clothing business online. Clothing retail online with a non-differentiated platform was a great way to burn a lot of cash, but I learned some valuable lessons about DTC too. With Swyft, I launched the business with an amazing team of operators. We already knew how to make things and move things, to build, to package and deliver physical goods. I knew that we could distill our skills and knowledge into popular consumer-facing products and a great customer experience.

Is the lead time associated with buying furniture a big issue for consumers?

We’ve had more than 50,000 customers to date who would probably say yes! We want to let our customers know that once they decide what they want, we’re ready to deliver. Our model offers a choice of delivery date: three months from now or next day delivery. 75% of our customers choose the ‘next day’ option.

What are the next steps for marketing for the business?

The loss of third-party cookies will be very challenging. We’ve had to take a step back and go old school, looking at things a bit more holistically. What’s interesting is we’re seeing a lot of benefit from some classic techniques like direct marketing, which is proving to be more cost effective now than it was before.