E-Commerce Late Bloomers: Niche Retail Sites

from the I-know...-let's-sell-that-on-the-internet dept

Remember during the boom years the way that every other silly e-commerce company started? A group of fresh-out-of-school MBAs would get together, and say: “I know, we can sell X on the internet…” where X would be some random product that they believed no one else was selling, whether it was bottled water, sunglasses or pet food. They’d go out and find out how big the retail market was for that product, and then put that down as their “opportunity” slide in their PowerPoint. Then, they’d run to their other recent MBA grad friends who took job at VC firms and show them the slide and the cash would come rolling in… Not the revenue kind of cash, but the investment kind of cash that was soon spent. When the boom went away and the investment cash stopped flowing, many of these startups shut their doors and the founders went back to consulting or banking jobs. Well, don’t look now, but maybe they were on to something. Last holiday season was certainly a good one for online retailers, but one of the surprises is that it was the niche “we’ll just sell X online” sites that started to bring in serious revenue. Call them the e-commerce late bloomers, but apparently there really is a market for such narrowly focused e-commerce shops. Of course, it remains to be seen just how big the “opportunity” really is, but I’m still a bit surprised. I had assumed that it would be difficult for newer, unknown, e-commerce sites to earn the trust of online shoppers – but apparently that’s not the case. I have to admit, some of these sites are pretty impressive. For example, when my sister recently needed to buy a kitchen cart for her new kitchen, IKEA couldn’t get the job done, but kitchencarts.com had exactly what she was looking for.

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