It often takes a trip abroad to really get perspective on what’s happening back home. That’s exactly what led four self-proclaimed “logic-nerds” to found the direct-to-consumer furniture business Article.
Aamir Baig, Fraser Hall, and brothers Samuel and Andy Prochazka were the original four behind the Vancouver-based Article, founded back in 2011 after Andy returned from a trip to Beijing. It was there he noticed a massive disconnect between the manufacturer and retail prices and returned to Canada with the goal to re-engineer the shopping experience.
The four co-founders came together to simplify the prototypical supply chain and rid the retail world of as many inefficiencies as they could. They found out this task would be easiest in the furniture world, as it was in dire need of an overhaul—product deliveries could take three to four months and suffer from up to 400 per cent markups– all amounting to an outrageously painful process for even the most callous shopper.
Article was founded on the basis that a digital-first buying experience would alleviate any kind of concern in that retail environment. With a focus on the customer’s needs and streamlining supply chains, customers would get what they want and build lasting relationships with Article.
Since the early days, Article has grown just a bit from the original four. The company now boasts over 200 employees working out of an expansive 115,000 square foot space just outside downtown Vancouver, and they have more than 1,000 different product SKUs with plans to double that by the end of 2018.
Article has only been in their new space for about a year. The new office/warehouse is 20 times larger than their previous Railtown location and was designed by Elizabeth MacKenzie and her team, with some input from Article’s creative team when it came to the layout of the space.
“We’re expanding in every aspect of our business: We’re hiring more staff, we’re increasing our product range and we’re developing new technologies to make the process for buying designer furniture more efficient,” said Baig. “A new, larger office space was necessary at this stage in our growth, and we wanted to find a location that checked off all of the boxes on our wish list.”
Article’s model works because they don’t work the way most furniture retailers do. With a digital presence as the first priority, the company can save costs by removing expensive showrooms, cutting out sales commissions, and ditching those bruised and coffee-stains floor models. Those savings are passed on directly to the customer.
But price is only half the battle. Article’s products illustrate a clear company value in design and built quality. The in-house team works with world-class manufacturers to built a catalog with mid-century modern, Scandinavian and West Coast designs. The best part? Every design is exclusive to Article, and pieces are often designed in-house from start to finish.
In case you wanted to know what Article has to offer, the company tends to focus on furniture for living and dining spaces. That means, chairs, tables, and the Article staple, sofas, although the product line is growing.
To run a world-class retail outlet, you have to have a world-class logistics team, and Article’s team is nothing but. The company ships out close to 10,000 orders each month to customers across North America, and 80 per cent of orders are delivered within two weeks, and 30 per cent in under one week. That kind of punctuality is almost unheard of with most retailers, let alone furniture specialists.
Article has doubled their sales from 2016 to 2017 and expects to hit over $200 million in total sales by the end of 2018.
Snacks are good. Healthy snacks are great. Healthy snacks that taste great are the best, and that’s what Article has plenty of. There are bananas, tangerines and cucumbers available to the hungry furniture family along with hummus and cheese at the ready. If that’s not enough, maybe granola bars or dried nuts and fruits work too—and some of those might even be covered in chocolate.
The go-to in the morning for many Particles, as they’re referred to, is a bowl of cereal and a cup of Lush Ethical Bean coffee (or a latte, or an americano) from the Jura Impressa XJ9 machine. Seriously, Google that thing. It’s a beast.
If that’s not enough, Article sits within walking distance of some of Vancouver’s best breweries, including Strange Fellows, Luppolo and Off the Rail. Food trucks like Meet2Eat and Betty Baguette also often roll by the office to make desk-side deliveries.
Article’s culture is a state of being. Be Direct, Be Better, Be Good, Be Genuine, Be Adventurous. Those mantras are what the executives and workers live by, all symbolized by the coveted Pony Time award. Every week, Particles gather to award the prestigious equine award to a colleague who truly lives and breathes those values, then next week they pass that award along to the next worthy winner.
The office maintains a communicative vibe through its open space, which lets all of the different teams stay in touch with one another if need be. Natural light floods the office, giving it an airy feel.
“An open concept layout encourages collaboration among teams,” Maureen Welton, Article’s VP of Creative and Design explains. “We also specifically decided to situate communal spaces along the perimeter of the office for groups and guests to enjoy plenty of natural light and great Vancouver views. We’re happy to come to work every day and feel great in this inspirational space.”
There are bike lockers in the basement for those who two-wheel their way to work, as well as showers for those few-and-far-between scorching hot Vancouver days.
Across from the showers, Article created a jam space to help the musically-inclined Particles find a place to practice their guitar solos and drumoffs. This is where the true stars get together to practice for Couchella, a festival headlined by the best and loudest Particles.
Article offers lunch-and-learns in order to take advantage of the different knowledge bases around the company. Team leads also regularly help mentor team members outside of their own to help make sure everyone is aware of what it takes to be successful at Article.
If that kind of formal learning isn’t your thing, maybe the trivia nights and communal HQ Trivia gatherings will help too. If none of that works try attending the Greenness 101 club, where Particles help teach each other their best gardening practices.
Photos by Matt Odynski
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