Ed Harvey had a problem and saw an opportunity. The problem: he’d been running 15 ecommerce sites for a national health and beauty multi-level marketer. But they decided to take everything in-house, so he was out of business.
The opportunity: One of those sites was a close-out site and he had just bought a warehouse – full of unsold merchandise.
It was 2001 and he and cofounder Mary Anne Lawson decided to piggyback on the explosive growth of ecommerce to start National Brands Liquidation and take his experience in close-out merchandising to the web.
Today National Brands Liquidation stocks more than 10,000 active SKUs of close-out and liquidation merchandise in the footwear, clothing, sports performance and other categories. They purchase the merchandise in lots from the manufacturer – which is new and in the original package, but might be last year’s style, overstocked in odd sizes, or considered "obsolete" due to packaging or logo changes. The product is sold to consumers for about half off the normal retail price.
Unlike many ecommerce merchants, Ed's inventory is constantly changing and often limited to a handful of items in any one SKU, color or size. The secret to success, Ed discovered, was offering these highly specific products in as many listings and across as many channels as possible in order to improve the chances of finding the one specific customer where the product was a "perfect" fit.
For that, he turned to Etail.
"I’d looked at a lot of platforms and had gotten to the point where I was thinking of having something developed but it would have been a big project," Ed said. "Then I saw Etail. It was pretty amazing. They had already built everything I had wanted to do and more. It was all the things I dreamed a system could do, but didn’t have the capabilities and resources to develop myself."
The sheer variety and numbers of SKUs needing to be inventoried, picked and packed created a logistical nightmare for Ed’s business. He said just the process of implementing Etail helped him think about logistics and warehousing in a new way, cutting the time needed to pick, pack and ship orders from several days to a few hours.
"We are a lot better company since using Etail," Ed said. "Implementing Etail forced us to develop procedures and solidify how we do business. Plus we’ve never had the level of reporting we get through Etail’s daily analytics."
Trust is important to Ed and Mary Anne. They’ve developed ongoing relationships with manufacturers who trust National Brands Liquidation to sell their close-out and overstock merchandise without upsetting normal pricing strategies, disrupting other sale channels or cheapening the brand.
Ed said he looks for the same in his vendors.
"Our relationship with Etail is very much a partnership," Ed said. "When we switched to Etail, it was amazing. The company we had been using was almost like an adversary. Everything was our fault. We even had to bring in a consultant to fix their software. The refreshing part about Etail is that they will always tell you the truth – even if it is something that you don’t want to hear. There is a moral compass at Etail and I’ve never found anyone in the organization who didn’t follow that compass."