Could you tell us how TheHut.com started up?
TheHut.com was formed in 2004 by Matthew Moulding and John Gallemore. They recognised the opportunity in online retailing and created the business on the back of that. As well as our retail site we also run a white label business.
How does your video games offer perform in comparison to the other products you stock, such as DVDs and music?
Video games is the biggest growth area in our business: sales are up over 350 per cent year-on-year. It has grown to be over 40 per cent of our business during 2008. We are constantly looking at ways we can improve our video games offering, both in range and content, as this will continue to be of major importance to us over the next couple of years.
You recently launched video game retail sites with Phones 4U and Dial-a-Phone, how are these
We run Games4U and Click-a-Game like all of our other white label sites. We deal with the site maintenance, the ordering and the back end, whilst Phones 4U market and promote the site. Our white label service is a key part of our business and we’ve been producing a number of these websites for some time now – including the one for Asda Entertainment. Working with Phones 4U is a big deal for The Hut. It is always fantastic to work with such an established retail brand.
How do you feel video games has performed for you this
Games have been a key seller this Christmas. With the current state of the economy we know that customers will be looking for even better value when shopping for gifts. TheHut.com is superbly placed to provide that value to the customer.
What are the biggest challenges in developing a name for yourself on the internet?
High Street brands and supermarket chains have embraced the internet over the last few years and now aggressively compete in the online arena.
These brands are gaining market share from the major online players, so it’s paramount that we increase our service levels and value proposition in order to be one step ahead in acquiring new customers and retaining our existing ones. TheHut.com offers additional value through initiatives such as exclusive discounts, voucher codes and advance notice of offers in our newsletter. We also use online alerts via Twitter for people who want to know about our latest offers instantly.
What are the biggest challenges in developing an online business?
One of the greatest challenges for any online business is to ensure that there is a constant high level of brand awareness. Customers can be fickle and the trick for any organisation like ours is to continue developing the brand without overspending on marketing budgets.
Another key challenge is to constantly improve the website, making it easier for customers to find and purchase products. We use web analytics and optimisation testing to ensure we are providing customers with the products they are looking for. We are currently working towards a major change for the site, so keep an eye out over the coming months.
It also goes without saying that customers expect unsurpassed quality in terms of delivery and customer service, so we are constantly monitoring and developing our capabilities in this area.
You boast very competitive prices. How do you manage such an offer?
We continuously look for ways to streamline our business in all departments to reduce costs. All these savings are passed onto the customer, plus of course, we have the advantage of not having the massive overheads of High Street shops to consider.
What do you view as the future of online retail (particularly regarding gaming)?
Rich content, interactive features and user generated content will become more prevalent, with an increased focus on satisfying customer needs.
Do you foresee a time when digital downloads take over from traditional retail?
Buying games online is incredibly popular and we foresee that this market will continue to grow, even with the rise in demand for game downloads. Whether these will ever reach the same level of popularity as music downloads is difficult to call.