February 27, 2012, 12:16 PM

How niche retailers can successfully branch out

Consumers will show by how they shop what else they want, an IRCE speaker says.

Lead Photo

Phillip Crane

Selling a highly specialized type of merchandise can be the most rewarding type of retailing, because it often means the merchant is selling products he’s passionate about, according to Phillip Crane, co-founder and partner at contemporary furniture and home décor e-retailer PureModern LLC.  But challenges abound for specialty retailers that want to expand, according to Crane, who will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition 2012 in Chicago during a session entitled “Next steps for niche retailers: Finding your expansion areas” June 6 at 4:15 p.m. 

“When you consider growing your business, do you sell what people want to buy, not what you want to sell, and expand beyond your niche, or do you look for new outlets and channels for the products you enjoy working with?” says Crane, who has spent 15 years in niche online retailing with PureModern.

Crane will share what specialty retailers need to consider as they make plans to grow beyond their original niches. “The success of a niche retailer relies on how the retailer can navigate the vast array of multichannel and marketing options,” he says. “It’s critical to investigate every multichannel opportunity, while being aware of the many shortfalls of overexposing your product and company.”

PureModern, No. 586 in the Internet Retailer Second 500 Guide, has grown by building out multiple narrowly focused sites after tracking customer behavior on its initial site, PureModern.com. The retailer has added such sites as ModernGadget.com and ModernPlanter.com in response to what visitors searched for and purchased on the main site. “Be smart about your customers,” Crane says. “Understand what they’re looking for and determine if you’re seeing a trend on a product or line of products within your store.  If so, grow that trend into a stand-alone storefront.”

Internet Retailer’s editors asked Crane to speak because of his track record in identifying and building on niche opportunities in online retail.  Prior to co-founding PureModern, he created, developed and sold a number of successful online retailing businesses, primarily in the home and garden sector. In addition to contributing to various industry blogs as well as magazines, Crane has held board positions for the City of Austin Convention Center Association and the City of Westminster Housing in London.

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