May 14, 2012, 12:42 PM

Power Equipment Direct powers up another e-commerce site

The e-retailer also expects its 2012 sales to increase nearly 18%.

Lead Photo

Jon Hoch speaking at last year's Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition.

Power Equipment Direct Inc. today launched its 11th niche e-commerce site, LeafBlowersDirect.com. The company also expects total sales this year to increase nearly 18% to $100 million, up from $85 million last year, founder and CEO Jon Hoch says.

The retailer, which also launched another e-commerce site in January, TillersDirect.com, is following even stronger growth last year, when total sales of $85 million were up 71% from $49.7 million. Its full stable of e-commerce sites cover such specialized categories as electric generators, air compressors, pressure washers, snowblowers, chain saws, log splitters, lawn mowers, water pumps, sump pumps, ground tillers and leaf blowers. It also operates an umbrella e-commerce site at PowerEquipmentDirect.com and a single bricks-and-mortar store in its home base of Bolingbrook, IL. Power Equipment Direct is No. 197 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

Most of the retailer’s sales come through its niche sites, Hoch says. He attributes the growth to a strategy of building home-grown sites that let shoppers drill down into minute product details, such as how many gears they can shift on a riding lawnmower. Shoppers also can compare models from multiple brands. “Because we build our sites in-house, we can design them to be the ultimate comparison shopping engine for power equipment,” Hoch says.

Power Equipment Direct also redesigned its web sites last year to render better on tablet computers, a step that led to a large increase in traffic, especially on weekends, from shoppers on tablets, Hoch adds without providing details.

In recent years, the retailer has also stepped up its social network marketing, including a growing presence on Facebook and Pinterest.

About eight of the retailer’s 40 employees work on building out its web sites and online marketing. It continues to work with the same core technology that Hoch has used since founding the company in 2002: the open-source PHP programming language and Microsoft SQL database.

The retailer plans to soon add three or four customer service representatives, expanding its staff of reps to more than 20, and three summer interns to work on web design and marketing.

Planning and building effective e-commerce technology strategy will be covered in sessions at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012, including the session “Getting the most out of your technology budget,” featuring speakers Matt Raines, vice president of technology, Bluefly Inc.; Gwan Yip, director of e-commerce, Maggy London International; and Chris Andrasick, founder and CEO, Tacit Knowledge.

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