Two brothers turned their family business around from a struggling furniture company to a thriving home empire that is making $22million a year.
Casey and his younger brother Taylor McPhail have a split share in the furniture business their late father started in Wangaratta, Victoria, more than 50 years ago.
The business was ticking along but then Covid hit and revenue plummeted so drastically the brothers found themselves in ‘so much debt’ and were forced to consider shutting McPhail’s down.
Thankfully, Casey and Taylor, who have a 17-year age gap, inherited their parents Keith and Bev’s strong work ethic and reinvented McPhail’s to the point it is now bringing in between $20,000 and $100,000 a day.
‘When [Casey] was 23, he would say, “Dad, I’m working so hard, I’m getting home at 11 at night,” and his first response was, “Someone else is working harder,”‘ Taylor told FEMAIL.
‘And that’s what our mum’s like, too. A tough woman. If she’s giving you sympathy, you’re probably doing something wrong.’
Taylor and Casey McPhail (pictured) saved the furniture business McPhail’s, which their father started in 1969, from ruin and are now bringing in $22million a year in revenue
In 1969, Casey and Taylor’s father Keith started his own removalists company in Wangaratta, which eventually evolved into a furniture sales business.
‘Dad used to do removalist work. A lot of people couldn’t fit their furniture in their new house so he’d take it, warehouse it and auction it off,’ Casey explained.
‘He realised there was a lot more money in that than what he was doing.’
Keith bought properties around the close-knit country town of Wangaratta, less than 70km south-west of Albury–Wodonga, on the Victoria-New South Wales border, to store the furniture.
McPhail’s took many forms over the years, going from second-hand furniture to imported to new items, before Casey jumped on board at the age of 22.
However, two years later, Keith died of cancer at the age of 50, when younger brother Taylor was only six years old.
‘A lot of people say I’m the exact same as my dad in mannerisms – older people in town who knew him and worked with him [say that], which is kind of funny because I was six so I never picked it up off him,’ said the soon-to-be father of two.
Casey said losing his dad was not only devastating for the family, but ‘threw a real spanner in the works’ for McPhail’s.
Casey and Taylor inherited their parents Keith and Bev’s (pictured) strong work ethic and reinvented McPhail’s to the point it is bringing in between $20,000 and $100,000 every day
In 1969, Casey and Taylor’s father Keith started his own removalists company in Wangaratta, which eventually evolved into a furniture sales business
His eldest brother came into the business to help, and the company was occasionally pulling in a decent $7million a year.
They took a hit in 2008 in the Global Financial Crisis when Taylor said McPhail’s started ‘deteriorating’.
‘When I came in about 2014, it was at one and a half million [dollars a year in revenue], then it got down to about $900,000. I worked there as an employee… you could see it was going south,’ he said.
Yearly revenue continued to decline and the oldest brother split from the business in 2016, but Taylor and Casey persevered.
‘We were left with McPhail’s. We got to the keep the brand and the original company and the Wangaratta store,’ Taylor said.
‘We had to do something with that and that’s when I found the Facebook marketing side.’
Yearly revenue continued to decline but Taylor and Casey pursued. Taylor started advertising furniture on Facebook Marketplace and made thousands of dollars in sales
After getting a large shipment of leather lounges, Taylor thought he’d try and shift the stock on Facebook Marketplace.
He invested $1,000 into boosting McPhail’s listings and ended up selling around $50,000 worth of furniture in just a couple of weeks.
‘Facebook is like our catalogue and because it’s so interactive, we use it a lot. We write back to the customers personally and there’s no bots or anything,’ Taylor said.
‘You can have a lot of banter at eight to ten at night when you’re sitting on the couch with a glass of red and the customer’s on the couch doing the same.’
Advertising on Facebook, which McPhail’s still does today, along with putting money into their stores, saw an increase in sales, but it still wasn’t enough.
‘The sales per month weren’t covering the cost of the business,’ Casey said.
‘Things did start to pick up a little in December  before the pandemic, so we thought we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Then when Covid hit we didn’t know what to do.’
‘When the Covid stuff happened everyone was saying, “You’re going to close down and no one’s allowed out,”‘ Taylor added.
‘It was crazy back then. That’s when we were like, “We’re done, throw in the towel,” because it was so hard to get to where we were.’
Covid brought about many logistical complications; shipping was not only extortionately expensive but constantly delayed.
Taylor remembered how effective his efforts on Facebook had been prior to Covid, and hit the platform hard to sell what they had.
The pandemic did bring some advantages: with everyone confined to their homes they were more willing to splash some cash on the spaces they were forced to spend so much time in.
Before the pandemic, the brothers thought they would have to ‘throw in the towel’ – but online marketing and a strong demand for furniture during lockdown saw things start to look up
‘We just went out and spent money like crazy and tried to sell it – everything would sell straight away. Whatever you would put up, it would sell,’ he said.
‘Everyone was at home [and] they were just buying. We had customers we never had before.’
In April 2020, they picked up to $700,000 in a month and were up to $1million by July. By the end of the year, they were pulling in $2million.
Casey and Taylor also came up with the idea to introduce a flat $59 delivery fee for anyone in Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT as well as south-eastern regions of Queensland and South Australia, which they believe also contributed to their success.
‘The perfect thing was that in Covid you could only drop to the door. Previously, you would have to send two guys to unwrap everything [and] put it away, and you’d only get four deliveries done in the day,’ Taylor explained.
‘Whereas for $59, you’d do 15 in a day with one person.’
Their business grew to the point they were able to renovate their stores and design their own furniture.
After: Their business grew to the point they were able to renovate their store, which went from a scattered warehouse-like shop to a sophisticated showroom filled with stylish furniture
Before: Looking back at their old store Taylor laughed, ‘To think that’s how we used to retail and we wondered why we were going broke!’
McPhail’s Wangaratta store went from a scattered warehouse-like shop to a sophisticated showroom filled with stylish designer furniture.
Looking back at their old store, Taylor laughed: ‘To think that’s how we used to retail and we wondered why we were going broke!’
They have a wide range of styles and lines named after, and inspired by, different Australian destinations, including Flinders, Bright and Griffith.
McPhail’s is very particular about the stock they deliver. Any tiny scuff on a box means the furniture has to be thoroughly inspected to ensure no one is receiving damaged goods.
Anything that is slightly damaged gets sold on Facebook for less.
Despite having a strong online presence, Casey and Taylor have made McPhail’s a household name across the south and eastern states.
They often have shoppers travel thousands of kilometres just to visit their Wangaratta store to handpick furniture themselves.
‘Often you’ll be in the store and there’ll be someone from Dubbo and their neighbours are here, too. That would happen three or four times a month,’ Taylor said.
Taylor said he and Casey, whom he considers a ‘father figure’, were able to pick McPhail’s off the ground and continue to work well together because they ‘understand each other’s strengths’
Throughout their business ventures, the brothers found time to get married and start families – all while staying involved in the local community.
Taylor married a woman named Tayla, who is pregnant with their second child, while coincidentally Casey has a wife named Kasey, with whom he has three children, as well as a daughter from a previous marriage.
Now that they have worked hard and achieved financial security, Taylor says the all-work, no-play mentality his parents lived by will stop with them.
Taylor said he and Casey, whom he considers a ‘father figure’, were able to pick McPhail’s off the ground and continue to work well together because they ‘have an understanding of each other’s strengths’.
‘I do what I want and if I have an issue, I ask him and he advises. He kept the business alive when I wasn’t here so there was something here to take,’ Taylor said.
‘I’ve grown it with his help, but when he’s on the floor he’s the best salesman by a mile.’
After 30 years selling furniture, Casey is an expert in the trade and shared his one piece of advice for couples styling their own homes.
‘Listen to your wife. The wives are right about this stuff every time,’ he said.