Selling Without a Store

“It’s a good way to expand our consumer base online because we’re reaching out to their buyers,” says  Shawn. Flash sites have also alleviated some inventory problems. With traditional sales agreements, you ship products to retailers, they take in the goods, and if the goods don’t sell, the retailers ship the products back to you, he explains. “So you have to carry some of that inventory you didn’t plan on and now you have to move it or put it on sale to get rid of it.” With flash sales, the Wards only ship products once they are sold, avoiding inventory pileup.

The twins use social media and online advertising to attract more people to their website. “When you have a brick-and-mortar store you’re going to get the walk-by traffic. When you’re a website, people have to find you,” explains Shawn.

Their efforts are paying off. After revenues dropped 40% in 2009, and an additional 5% in 2010, the company can now credit its online strategy with its turnaround. “We’re on a pace to grow our business 30% over last year,” Shawn says. “We’re seeing a lot of growth.”

5. Flea Markets: Bringing Retail To the Community

Todd Jones (Photo by Lonnie C. Major)

While flea markets are a great place to score deals on hard-to-find items, they can also be lucrative venues for entrepreneurs looking to build a brand. Just ask Todd Jones, owner of New York-based donut-making company Cuzin’s Duzin. The 52-year-old businessman made $100,000 in 2010, selling his sweet treats in these community-oriented venues.

 

The biggest selling point of flea markets is their flexibility, Jones says. “If one location doesn’t work out, I can change up and go someplace else.” But their temporary nature presents another challenge: introducing a product to a new audience with each change of location. To entice new flea market patrons, Jones gives out free donuts whenever he sets up a new shop. He also ensures that he is consistent with his branding so past customers can easily recognize Cuzin’s Duzin brand and signage. “Our colors have been the same since we started and people see me in my hat and my chef coat,” he says. “People expect a certain experience.”

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