July 19, 2006, 12:00 AM

Niche Retail uses evolution to sell tricycles

It’s not quite the same as looking to Charles Darwin for a few merchandising pointers, but Niche Retail Inc. is using evolution to drive e-commerce sales. A case in point is Niche’s TricycleKids.com, launched in May.

It’s not quite the same as looking to Charles Darwin for merchandising pointers, but Niche Retail Inc. is a big believer in using evolution to drive e-commerce sales. A case in point is TricycleKids.com, Niche Retail’s newest web store, which launched in May after nearly a year of testing and tweaking.

The site sells tricycles and other three or four-wheel toys for children under the age of 4. With this niche and site, Niche Retail, No. 359 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide to Retail Web Sites, is targeting young parents who are moving up from a jogging stroller to a tricycle and eventually to a bicycle with training wheels.

The site is designed and organized around age categories: push trikes for 1-2 year olds; tricycles for 2-3 year olds; and run bikes for kids ages 2 to 4. By establishing the niche around the physical evolution of small children, Niche Retail, which operates 18 other e-commerce sites, is marketing to young families with children who want one-stop shopping online for juvenile products such as car seats, jogging strollers and, eventually, tricycles and bikes. “We look for juvenile categories where we can identify the growth stages of a young family,” says director of sales and marketing Jeff Wedren.

The company uses web analytics and other marketing tools to analyze when parents may be ready to move up to a new category. Niche Retail also pays close attention to customer reviews, which yield potential purchasing patterns and business development opportunities. “We use a lot of tools and methods to figure out the formula,” Wedron says. So far Niche Retail has used various aspects of child development and growth patterns, along with analyzing buyer behavior, to launch ChildCarriers.com, EliteCarSeats.com, HighChairs.com and JoggingStroller.com.

Starting new e-commerce sites is easier for Niche Retail following a major e-commerce platform upgrade by Fry Inc. in 2004, along with a new warehouse and account management program from ACCPAC. The new infrastructure is built to support as many as 100 web stores.

With the launch of TricycleKids.com, which carries SKUs from 13 consumer brand manufacturers, Niche Retail is on track to grow its web sales by 20% in 2006, the company predicts. “We look for significant niches and then figure out the merchandising cycle,” Wedren says.

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