November 29, 2005, 12:00 AM

Early holiday online sales up 312% over last year at

Web-driven phone sales rose 289% over last year to kick off the pure-play treadmill retailer’s holiday season. The weekend’s success is more validation of a decision earlier this year to exit the retail store business.

Cyber Monday was the best day sales day in the 10-year history of, with online sales up 312% over last year at this time, and sales at the call center-all driven by the web site, as the company has neither stores nor catalogs-up 289%. Two call center agents doubled their normal order volume staying to work the phones until midnight, says Cliff Koraska, COO. “We’re ecstatic,” he says.

Philadelphia-based, which started 10 years ago as the online arm of a now 21-year-old business, sells exercise treadmills. Director of marketing Kevin French says the traffic hasn’t increased substantially over last year, but that the company has focused on doing a better job of converting its traffic. Since June, as the result of a web site redesign and other initiatives aimed at that goal, conversions are up three- to fourfold, he says.

The redesign and other factors including search marketing efforts helped drive Monday’s results; but also contributing was the company’s sales strategy. Every weekend, it runs a sale that puts a different selection from its treadmill inventory on sale through the weekend with the sale ending Monday. The Thanksgiving weekend sale offered some popular equipment at the best prices ever offered by the company.

Monday’s results were a continuing validation of the company’s decision earlier this year to exit its retail store business, says Koraska. At one time Smoothfitness had five stores, but it sold its two remaining stores in the first half of the year. Korasky says that decision was driven by the combined effect on the bottom line of retail overhead and limited geographic distribution, and that the positive effects of getting out of the store business were apparent within 30 days of selling the stores.

“Every year for the last 20 years, we had either broken even or lost a little in July,” he says. “This year was the first July in which we ever made money, and it was because we didn’t have the retail stores.”


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