We sit down with CEO of the Winning Group and Founder of Appliances Online, John Winning to learn more about his career and his plans for the future.
After growing up in the world of bricks-and-mortar retail, the last thing Winning wanted to do was follow in his family’s footsteps.
“I literally grew up in retail…there are pictures of me in our warehouse and store from when I was a toddler,” he jokes.
“Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I helped my Dad, Uncle and Aunty in the Winning Appliances showrooms, in our warehouse and even on deliveries. My Dad would personally go out to customers’ homes to deliver products or help with installations. He was the one who taught me the principles of old-fashioned customer service,” Winning says.
Despite these experiences and his fond memories of his time spent in-store with his family, Winning decided he wasn’t interested in pursuing a career in the retail industry.
In his pursuit for a fruitful career outside of the family business, he worked as a waiter, toyed with the idea of driving a water taxi and even worked as a door-to-door salesman. But, after getting bitten by a potential customer’s dog and landing himself in hospital, his dad was able to convince him to return to the family business.
It wasn’t long until Winning’s natural drive and ambition kicked in and he started to see a bigger future for himself outside of Winning Appliances. From here, Appliances Online was born.
What sparked your decision to start your own appliances store?
“The idea to start Appliances Online came from when I was working in one of our Winning Appliances stores.
“After coming across the Winning Appliances catalogues that customers used to bring in store when they shopped with us, and with my marketing hat on knowing that the internet was exploding in the US, I went to my Dad with the idea that we should put this catalogue online so people could shop directly from it. My Dad said it would never work and that people wouldn’t buy appliances online. Fast-forward 13 years and Appliances Online is Australia’s largest online appliance retailer.”
What was the transition from working for your family’s business to starting your own online store like?
“I literally started Appliances Online with a 1300 number diverted to my mobile phone, which I answered day or night. I also started working out of our warehouse and within three months of starting the business, I hired my first employee.
“Now, we have over 200 people working for Appliances Online at our head office in Redfern.”
What sort of challenges did you face when you were just starting out?
“The biggest challenge 13 years ago was to get people shopping online, particularly buying bulky goods. Australians were hesitant, which is now a thing of the past. Initially, we had to educate people about online shopping and provide them with an exceptional shopping and customer service experience to overcome their hesitations. Our mission to this day is to provide the best shopping experience in the world – one customer, one experience at a time.
“Appliances Online prides itself for providing old-fashioned customer service in a modern context, which starts from the minute someone visits our website, right through to delivery and after sales. We have a 24/7 locally-based customer service team, imagery and video for each product online to ensure that customers can get an idea of what the product looks like. We also have a dedicated customer experience team that looks after the customer when something goes wrong with their order.”
What have been some of the biggest successes of Appliances Online?
“Even though from a sales point of view, we have had million dollar days and we are having our most successful year on record, I would have to say that our Net Promoter Score (NPS) is something I am most proud of. The average NPS for retail in Australia is 12 – Appliances Online currently has an NPS of 80.2.”
How have you found the move back to your family’s business?
“Even though Appliances Online tends to be focused on the replacement market, and those looking to renovate usually shop with Winning Appliances, what ties both businesses together is the exceptional customer experiences.
“At Winning Appliances, we have 16 stores nationwide, and our flagship showrooms provide the best appliance shopping experiences in the world.
Like Appliances Online, Winning Appliances is experiencing its most successful year on record (with 113 years in the business), and we have recently expanded in Western Australia, opening a new store in Myaree and new commercial showroom in Osborne Park. We will also be continuing our expansion into Victoria with the opening of a flagship Richmond showroom early next year.”
Do you have any professional goals you would like to achieve outside of Winning Group and Appliances Online?
“I would like to continue to mentor start-ups. Globally, Australians have a reputation as being some of the smartest and hardest working people that have great passion for what they do. I would like to help other Australians take their innovations to the world.”
What do you love the most about the online space?
“The pace of change. You have to an agile business to compete with local and global competitors.”
If you could offer one piece of advice to other online retailers, what would it be?
“Put the customer first, in each and every decision you make. Their loyalty is what makes you successful.”