January 28, 2005, 12:00 AM

Overstock’s Q4 net income of $2.5 million narrows year`s loss to $5 million

Overstock`s revenues increased 80% to $221.3 million over last year for the fourth quarter and 107% to $494.6 million for the year. Gross bookings rose 82% to $237 million for the quarter and 84% to $541 million for the year.

 

Overstock posted net income of $2.5 million for the fourth quarter on revenues that soared to $221.3 million, up 80% from a year ago, the company reported. Net income contrasts with a net loss of $3.1 million for the year-ago quarter. Gross margin for the quarter rose 58% to 15.2% from 9.6% in Q4 2003, while gross profits were up 186% to $33.7 million from $11.8 million a year ago. Gross bookings-the total value of transactions, including direct sales to consumers and sales by third-party sellers, excluding auctions-rose 82% year-over-year for the quarter to $237 million.

For the year, the Salt Lake City-based online liquidator reported a net loss of $5 million compared with a net loss of $11.9 million last year, on revenues that rose 107% to $494.6 million from last year’s $238.9 million. Gross bookings for the year were up 84% to $541 million.

Overstock’s average per-customer acquisition cost was $18.15 in the fourth quarter, up from $13 a year ago. For the year, it was $16.43, up from $12.09 last year. CEO Patrick Byrne estimates approximately half of that increase was from higher rates charged for online advertising across the board and half was from the company’s “decision to step on the marketing gas pedal.” Overstock launched an extensive branding campaign over the course of the year that included heavy placements in offline media. In December, Overstock was the 26th most-visited site on the Internet, Bryne says.

Overstock didn’t break out results for its new Auctions offering, but Byrne says free listing days had boosted listings to as high as 170,000. However, saying that number still represents only 1.5% of eBay’s listings, he notes that many of the incremental listings proved to be “junk,” such as high multiples of the same keychain, for example.

Overstock already has announced plans to reduce its own listing fees for one month, starting Feb. 18, the day eBay’s announced listing fee increase goes into effect. Overstock will likely limit any future free listing offers to sellers so as to avoid low-value, redundant listings, Byrne indicates. Now at about 38,000, “Our listings seem to grow better organically than they did with free listings,” he says, adding that eBay’s decision to raise some fees by 50% “may be a boon for us.”

 

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