Overstock.com Inc. is planning to expand into Canada, England, France and Germany by summer of 2008, says chairman and CEO Patrick Byrne. “It’s probably a couple years overdue,” he says. “We’re anxious to get a foot in the water.”
The online closeout retailer, No. 25 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, is investigating logistics partners with a goal of shipping products to the new markets sometime next summer.
The logistics of shipping products overseas is one of the key challenges Overstock.com faces. “It’s especially difficult to do reverse logistics,” Byrne tells Internet Retailer. “Costs are prohibitive to bringing products back into the U.S.” That makes finding a partner essential because Overstock doesn’t want to open its own facilities to handle customer shipping and returns, Byrne says.
Marketing, customer service, payment systems and other operations for Canada likely will be handled within Overstock’s existing offices in the U.S., Byrne says. European market operations likely will be managed through a new location, possibly in Ireland, Scotland or Switzerland.
Among the other challenges ahead are language and currency differences and tariffs attached to trade across borders, Byrne adds.
Overstock’s gross bookings for the fourth quarter of 2007 are running about 10% ahead of last year’s pace and the company expects to generate $50 million to $60 million in operating cash flows in the fourth quarter.