Dan Sallis has been racing motorcycles for about ten years, and always had difficulty finding replacement parts. After talking with fellow riders who had the same problem, Sallis and Jodie Barr filled the economic vacuum, turning 1tail.com into a favorite stop for competitive racers and weekend enthusiasts in less than a year. "The response has been overwhelming," says Barr, who is the companys President. Sallis is the Chief Technical Officer. "Dan and I weren't sure if a small business like this could succeed on the Internet, but it can." A handful of products has grown into a digital superstore that reaches a national market 24 hours a day, making their business one of a growing number capturing a greater share of the retail market.
The US Commerce Department says digital sales posted their highest increase in three years last quarter, accounting for more than $21-billion between April and June. Earlier this year, Forrester Research and Shop.org predicted Web sales of more than $172-billion, a 22% increase from last year. Even people who dont make buy online use the Internet for research purposes, comparing products and prices in searching for the best deal, according to Clarence Briggs, Chief Executive of AIT (http://www.ait.com), which provides web hosting and e-commerce business services to companies like 1tail.com. "Our role is to make it easy for even non-technical people to harness the Internet as a business tool.
Briggs points the type businesses that AIT hosts who have turned their web sites into consistent money-makers:
a?? Millions of dollars in suction cups sold each year by a New York company
a?? Oysters fresh from the Chesapeake to your table in 24 hours
a?? A West Coast software engineer who made 30K part-time selling caps
a?? A Florida pest control firm with quarter-million dollar monthly sales
If anything, the National Retail Foundation tends to be conservative in its predictions, meaning sales figures will likely be higher than expected. That bodes well for a wide range of businesses as they gear up for their peak sales season. Going online is absolutely no risk; orders are processed and paid for before they shipped, says Richard Cantwell, the Virginia oysterman. Even though Cantwell also sells offline, I believe the real growth lies with the Internet component.
Niche businesses are especially well-suited to electronic sales. Even people who dont buy online use the Internet for research purposes, comparing vendors and prices in searching for the best deal, said Sean McCoy, AITs CMO. And in communities where some specialty shops may not exist, the web is the only way to find them.
For businessmen like Cantwell, and motorcycle enthusiasts Sallis and Barr, the web means independence. "You have to work at entrepreneurship; we tried two other product lines before moving to this one," says Barr. "A lot of people here (Colorado) pocketed hefty severances packages after the tech layoffs some years back with the idea of putting their IT know-how to use. But, they never learned how the components worked; they didnt understand time and effort are necessary in getting a good website in place."
About The Author
Alex Lekas is the VP / Marketing & Corporate Communications for AIT, Inc. (http://ait.com), a web hosting and ecommerce company serving 191,688 business domains in 107 countries.