July 12, 2006, 12:00 AM

Thralow scopes out another niche e-commerce site

After purchasing SpottingScopes.com earlier this year for a nominal price and adding a new e-commerce platform and more merchandise, first-year sales are on track to reach $350,000, says director of marketing and technology Jonathan Thralow.

A $45,000 investment in a niche URL is helping Thralow Inc. build another successful e-commerce site. In January Thralow, No. 265 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide to Retail Web Sites, purchased SpottingScopes.com and built a new specialty e-commerce site. Now SpottingScopes.com is on track to achieve first-year sales of $350,000, the company predicts.

The new launch fits with Thralow’s business development strategy of expanding into online shopping segments with potentially higher margins where the company already has a web presence, says director of marketing and technology Jonathan Thralow. For instance, Thralow used to carry spotting scopes, which hunters use to spot game and birders use to spot and take close-up photos of birds, on Binoculars.com. But the item is so specialized that customers preferred shopping on a niche site.

After acquiring SpottingScopes.com, stocking the site with 523 SKUs from brands such as Nikon and Pentax, and building search tools that enable shoppers to search for merchandise by item, brand and price range, monthly sales have grown from $11,000 in February to $27,000 in June. The average ticket on SpottingScopes.com is about $300 compared with $150 on Binoculars.com, Thralow says.

“These are specialized shoppers who want to buy a spotting scope from a web site that carries exactly what they are looking for,” he says. “SpottingScopes.com also generates a higher cross-selling ratio than some of our other sites since people also buy a tripod to go along with their scope.”

Acquiring the URL also is helping SpottingScopes.com attract more search engine traffic. “We get good traffic to SpottingScopes.com from our natural search listings,” Thralow says. “We used to pay for the term ‘spotted scopes,’ but we didn’t get a very consistent payback.”

The launch of a new web site and the consistent performance of its other sites, which include Binoculars.com, Telescopes.com, Pans.com, Peepers.com, SimplyHammocks.com, WeatherHunters.com, Telescopes4Kids.com and Optics4Hunting.com, will help Thralow increase its total web sales by around 33% to $27 million in 2006, the company says.

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