Marketing and fulfillment changes in summer help boost holiday sales by 18%.
Mark Brohan , Research Director
Replacements Ltd. found that improvements in fulfillment and merchandising paid off during the holidays—and could help the e-retailer of hard-to-find and discontinued china, stoneware, glassware and related items keep up the momentum in 2012.
At Replacements.com, No. 193 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, holiday web sales increased about 18%, though senior vice president of e-commerce Jack Whitley didn’t release exact figures. Holiday web site traffic to Replacements.com also increased about 9.8% to 4.5 million visits from 4.1 million over Christmas 2010.
“We continue to stick within our niche within a niche,” Whitley says. Holiday web sales increased in 2011 because the retailer, which generated web sales of about $76.3 million in 2010, took steps to improve fulfillment and add inventory over the summer. Replacements.com added nearly 200,000 square feet of floor space to its fulfillment center to house almost all inventory internally, and now can pick, pack and ship orders from a central location.
Using its network of 600 buyers, Replacements.com also added about 20,000 pieces of hard-to-find patterns. That increased its inventory to about 360,000 patterns and 4 million pieces. “We kept added on the brands customers wanted us to include,” Whitely says.
Extra inventory was a big factor in driving holiday sales, but free shipping and the addition of an online pattern registry also helped, Whitley says. For the first time Replacements.com offered free shipping—which includes lots of extra packaging to product fragile items—on orders of more than $150. The move motivated multiple customers to increase the size of their average orders, which had stood at about $123; Replacements.com didn’t provide a new figure. “We’re still crunching the holiday results, but the free shipping was a big reason we saw a lot of customers move to higher price points and bigger tickets,” Whitley says.
Over the summer Replacements.com also introduced an online registry that allows customers to sign up for out-of-stock patterns they would like Replacements.com to find and add to their inventory. The addition of several thousand e-mail addresses helped Replacements.com increase the size of its customer database by 13%. “It helped us to add volume,” Whitley says.
Looking for ways to stay within its niche but expand its marketing reach is a holiday lesson that Replacements.com will use year-round. “We aren’t changing the core of what we do, but the holidays helped us implement some new ways to expand how we market and merchandise,” Whitley says.