The first online shop came into being 27 years ago. Nonetheless, brick-and-mortar retailers still have problems selling their goods over the Internet. There is a lack of technical expertise or marketing knowledge.
Founder Dominik Benner’s company The Platform Group has turned it into a business: Depending on the industry, it bundles the off-liners under one roof.
Benner builds or buys sales platforms for this. Last year his group made a turnover of around 120 million euros – profitably and without money from investors.
Now The Platform Group has struck again and with Lott has taken over a platform for motor vehicle parts. Benner mentions the purchase price to “Gründerszene” as a single-digit million amount.
The family business Lott has been trading car parts since 1987, and has also been online for 15 years, including via the tire marketplace Tyre24. Several retailers with over 300 brands and 150,000 products are now connected to the platform.
100 people currently work for Lott. After the takeover and integration into the Platform Group, there should be no layoffs, as Benner says. Employees whose positions could become redundant by merging tasks would in future be deployed in other areas such as dealer support.
Further acquisitions planned
For The Platform Group, the automotive sector is the 13th sector in the portfolio. Others include textiles, shoes, bicycles, furniture and luxury goods such as watches and jewelry. A total of 3700 dealers are connected to the group and its platforms.
Benner’s company last bought the two furniture shops Möbelfirst and Stylefy in May and June respectively. This year there should be a total of five to six acquisitions, says the founder.
And according to Benner, the shopping spree should continue at this speed in the years to come. However, the founder rules out purely financial investments: “We do not want to invest in any company where we cannot make a substantive contribution.”
It all started with Shoes24
Dominik Benner himself came to his role very spontaneously. After his father died unexpectedly in 2012, he inherited the family’s shoe company in Wiesbaden. “I had to decide overnight to take over five stationary stores, which is not exactly sexy and at the time had no future on its own without e-commerce,” says Benner.
But since he was always interested in e-commerce, he sold the shoes on marketplaces such as Amazon and Ebay. In 2013 he set up the Schuh24 platform, to which around 2,000 local dealers are now connected.
Two years ago, Zalando also opened its platform for retail. Benner describes this competitive situation as “totally irrelevant” – among other things because shoes are only part of his platform strategy and retailers can also be listed on both platforms at the same time.
The textile division now generates the largest turnover in the Platform Group with the Outfits24 platform, which Benner’s company built itself in 2018. Bicycles and motor vehicles follow in second and third place.
The area of e-learning has also grown significantly recently, says Benner. The group is represented here with the Teech teaching tool. The software, designed as a kind of digital classroom for distance teaching, for example during Corona, should also focus on tutoring in the future. This puts the young company in competition with the Gostudent learning platform, which recently became Austria’s most valuable start-up.
This is how The Platform Group’s platform model works
Like the competition, The Platform Group brings specialist retailers onto the Internet and helps them, among other things, with the provision of interfaces, with design, customer acquisition via search engine marketing or process optimization. In addition to its own shops, which generate the most sales, the group also uses sales channels such as Amazon, Ebay, Galaxus or About You.
In addition, the dealers on the platforms taken over by Benner can access better sales statistics via a new backend, book additional insurance or inquire about financing for operating resources from banks.
Millions in sales without investors
In 2020 the group had a turnover of 118 million euros, in the previous year it was 75 million. In the past year, the company also grew thanks to Corona, as more dealers were selling via the platforms and there was more demand.
For this year Benner expects a renewed growth in sales, but does not become more specific when asked by the “Gründerszene”. The Handelsblatt recently forecast sales for 2021 of 200 million euros.
Vorwerk, Tupper, Pierre Lang
Benner says that his company has been operating profitably since he founded Schuh24 in 2013. He therefore did not need any help from investors. That could change in the next one to two years, however. When asked, the founder confirmed that The Platform Group could open up to outside money in order to grow faster.
This text comes from a cooperation with the magazine “Gründerszene”. Click on the links, leave welt.de and land in the articles at gruenderszene.de.
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