It seems that nearly every week this spring, there has been a major development in the landscape of online retail. From the launch of Platform by Lucas Zwirner to Etsy’s $1.6 billion acquisition of Depop, investors are betting on the strong long-term performance of digital commerce.
The emergence of these platforms doesn’t worry 1stDibs’s CEO David Rosenblatt, however. “There’s a lot of runway,” he says, and the more that sellers and buyers become accustomed to making large purchases online, the better. Having been in the business since 2001, 1stDibs is a granddaddy in this space. Though the company was not yet profitable as of its S-1 filing this spring, Rosenblatt has plans to expand the platform to reach more buyers and sellers worldwide.
Shortly after the close of 1stDibs’s public offering, AD PRO sat down with Rosenblatt to see what’s ahead for the company.
You have the ear of the design community right now. What’s top of mind?
I feel like a newborn still in swaddles in one sense. In another sense, I feel like a grizzled veteran. I’ve been in this business 10 years, and responsible for a company that has not only been in this business for 20 years, but really, I think more than any other business, was responsible for bringing the design industry online. And of course, we’re coming off 15 traumatic months where the retail channel was essentially obliterated. I feel to some degree that we’ve telescoped 10 additional years of digital into 15 months’ worth of experience. So as we look forward, I think it’s about capitalizing on the fact that we are now public to continue on one of our core missions, which is helping the industry adapt to a world in which buyers are increasingly online first.
That’s what we’re hearing across the industry—that the pandemic has just accelerated things that were already underway. What changes do you anticipate coming up in the next five years at 1stDibs?
It’s a few things. One important part of our strategy is to roll out 1stDibs more broadly outside the U.S. into local languages—50% of our sellers are non-American, and 40% of our items. Yet at the same time, it’s not possible to use 1stDibs if you don’t speak English. So we’re localizing that buyer experience. And then related to that, to be able to market through channels which haven’t been available to us without having local language capabilities.
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A second important dimension is to continue to invest in the development of new verticals. This company was founded to put the digital antique universe online—specifically, the Paris flea market. Over the past 10 years, we’ve diversified our supplies: Vintage and antiques and fashion combined were over 50% of our GMV [gross merchandise value] in 2020. Continuing to invest in new categories, like new and custom design, is an extraordinarily important part of what we’re all about. Custom design has been one of our fastest-growing categories since we launched it. That’s something that we want to continue to feed.
Third, we want to continue to invest in new purchase formats, so that it becomes easier to buy from us and to sell. We want to continue to add qualifying supply without relaxing our vetting standards. So, lots of exciting things in front of us.
Could you elaborate on what those new purchase formats might be?
Originally, the business was not e-commerce enabled. The first thing we did was that we added the Purchase button. The second thing we did was to evolve that into a platform for negotiations. Today we support 50,000 separate individual conversations each month between a buyer and a seller—that’s a pretty significant number.