March 2, 2012, 10:39 AM takes a financial hit from Google search penalty and rebranding

The mass merchandising e-retailer reports a 3% revenue decline for 2011.

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A search penalty from Google Inc. and a rebranding effort centered around the letter “O” helped to depress revenue by 3% for Inc. in 2011, the mass merchandiser reported today. Overstock is No. 27 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

For the year ending Dec. 31, 2011, Overstock reported that:

• Sales decreased 3.3%, to $1.054 billion from $1.090 billion in 2010.



• Gross profit decreased 5.5%, to $179.1 million from $189.6 million last year.

• Sales and marketing expenses increased 0.8% to $61.8 million from $61.3 million.

• General, administrative and technology expenses increased 18.3% to $134.8 million from $113.9 million.

Just more than year ago, Google Inc. punished Overstock for offering discounts for links back to the e-commerce site, a violation of Google policy that frowns upon paying for links. The penalty lasted until April 21, and Overstock had previously reported that the punishment resulted in a 5% revenue drop during the period the penalty was in force. “We were able to offset some of negative impact to revenue by increasing expenditures in other marketing channels,” Overstock said today in its financial report.

The e-retailer today also said that is ongoing efforts to rebrand itself around the letter “O”—a push that includes employing the web address as well as—has affected revenue and created confusion. “Revenues were also hurt by a shift in marketing resources into our Club O loyalty program and away from coupons and other site-wide promotions, which were less effective in generating revenues during the second and third quarter of 2011,” the financial report states. “We also believe that our efforts to rebrand ourselves from to hurt revenue growth in 2011 as it confused some prospective customers who had trouble finding our web site.”

For the fourth quarter ending Dec. 31, 2011, Overstock also reported:

• Sales decreased 9.9%, to $314.1 million from $348.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.

• Gross profit decreased 14.3% to $50.9 million from $59.4 million.

• Sales and marketing expenses increased 9.2% to $18.9 million from $17.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.

• General, administrative and technology expenses increased 24.4% to $34.1 million from $27.4 million.

Sam Peterson, Overstock’s senior vice president, technology, website and merchandising, will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in Chicago in a session entitled “The key to tablet owners' hearts: apps.

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