Scandinavian interiors curator Fred International has grown a loyal client base for its premium European brands. The key? Making informed and vital stock selections powered by the American Express® Qantas Business Rewards Card.
For Melissa Walker and Michael Liira, the husband-and-wife founders of Sydney based furniture distributor Fred International, travel is essential for business.
Fred International represents 12 designer brands from Sweden, Denmark and Finland – including Fogia, Rubn Lighting, Lyfa, Brdr Kruger, Mazo, Swedese and Duxiana – with a team of six staff and showrooms in Sydney and Melbourne. But some of its most important work happens abroad.
“Flying to the likes of Stockholm or Copenhagen for the major furniture trade shows is really invaluable to our business,” says Walker. “The international trade shows are where we do our buying for the showroom floor.”
To get there, the team at Fred International uses the Qantas Points earned on their American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card. The business earns 2 Qantas Points per $1 spent when using the Card to purchase Qantas products and services and up to 1.25 points per $1 spent on everyday business expenses.¹
While they’re abroad, Walker and her team are able to buy pieces for the next season by taking advantage of the Card's dynamic line of unsecured funding.²
“There needs to be a product on the showroom floor for clients to visualise. While we’re at these trade shows we need to be able to make a quick decision and buy the stock for what we think will be our bestsellers – often then and there.”
It’s here that the Card, with access to flexible funding with up to 51 days to pay³ comes in handy. “These decisions are super important, especially given a turbulent few years with supply-chain issues and extended lead times affecting the industry.”
Walker and Liira started the business in 2007. “When we started dating, Michael was already importing furniture. We shared a love of Scandinavian design and decided to combine our skills.”
Finding their niche has been good for business, too. Fred International has opened a flagship showroom in the inner-city suburb of Surry Hills to accompany its two-level boutique in Collingwood, Melbourne, alongside acting as a wholesale distributor for Scandinavian furniture and lighting through Loam in Perth and Aptos Cruz in Adelaide.
“We really want to do these brands justice and genuinely respect the craftspeople who make these products,” says Walker. “We prefer a curatorial approach to the brands and our showrooms reflect that in how we showcase the furniture.”
Unlock the possibilities
Melissa Walker shares her top small-business tips for making key decisions, building relationships, managing staff and more.
“Building relationships help decision making”
Despite being continents apart, the team at Fred International have found that there is real value in meeting its partnering furniture suppliers in person. “We find that for our supplier brands in Sweden, Denmark and Finland, it’s really about relationships. They don’t want just a business relationship over email, they want to really know us. So we’ve got to show up.” Walker relies on Qantas Points¹ to help pay for these flights and has earned hundreds of thousands of points since signing up for the Card. “Seeing how they run their businesses helps us make decisions about the kind of brands we want to stock and support.”
“Cash flow is everything”
“It’s one of the biggest challenges small businesses face. We’re lucky we have a very cash-positive business. When someone places an order, they give us a 50 per cent deposit and the balance on delivery. But we have challenging times too; if we hold too much stock, it’s just cash in a warehouse and that warehousing has additional costs. Balancing it all is a fine art. We're lucky to have the American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card. Even when cash is low, we can put our large outgoings on the Card and know we have up to 51 days to pay for purchases."
“We do more with fewer staff”
“We like running a small, tight team at Fred International – just like our approach to the brands we stock – and really try to do more with less.” To achieve this, the business relies on software that automates inventory and ordering and uses the American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card’s automated financial reporting that simplifies finances with direct feeds from the Card Account into programs like MYOB⁴ that helps the team stay on top of the numbers. “Any time that you can save through automation is a huge benefit.
“Collaboration creates opportunities”
“We recently revamped and renovated our Melbourne showroom for Melbourne Design Week. It was a huge collaboration with the National Gallery of Victoria where we were able to launch new brands like Duxiana and Lyfa and worked with other brands like Bang & Olufsen. It was a huge success and a good chance for us to establish ourselves in Melbourne. The showroom has a residential apartment set-up and we take our clients through by appointment only.”
“Make your money go further”
Small-business owners always have one eye on running costs. For Fred International, travelling overseas and between their domestic outposts is an expense that they pay close attention to. “It’s one of the main reasons we signed up for the American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card. The points our business earns from flying is tripled when we book eligible Qantas flights with our Card⁵. We also save up to 10 per cent on selected Qantas flights as Qantas Business Rewards Members⁶ and save money with the Card’s complimentary travel insurance when paying for a return trip (T&Cs and exclusions apply, such as maximum age limits, pre-existing medical conditions and cover limits).⁷ It all goes towards those bigger trips to Europe.”
Click here for Terms and Conditions
*100,000 bonus Qantas Points: Offer only available to new American Express Card Members who apply, are approved and spend $3,000 on eligible purchases on their new Card in the first two (2) months from the Card approval date. Eligible purchases do not include Card fees and charges, for example annual fees, interest, late payment, cash advances, balance transfers, traveller’s cheques and foreign currency conversion. Card Members who currently hold or who have previously held any other Card product issued by American Express Australia Limited in the preceding 18-month period are ineligible for this offer. 100,000 bonus Qantas Points will be awarded to the eligible Card Member's Account 8-10 weeks after the spend criteria has been met. Subject to the American Express® Qantas Business Rewards Card Points Terms and Conditions. $450 annual fee applies. This advertised offer is not applicable or valid in conjunction with any other advertised or promotional offer. This offer may be withdrawn at any time without notice
American Express approval criteria applies. Subject to Terms and Conditions. Fees and charges apply. All information is correct as at 1 October 2023 and is subject to change. This offer is only available to those who reside in Australia. Cards are offered, issued and administered by American Express Australia Limited (ABN 92 108 952 085). ®Registered Trademark of American Express Company.