SMALL STORES’ SITE A PRODUCT POTPOURRI

Byline: Adam Blair

NEW YORK — After only two months online, Inretail.com, a product-based, retailer-only web site, already lists a wide variety of products from 15,000 to 20,000 manufacturers.
Tom Findlay, president of Birmingham, Ala.-based InRe-tail.com, believes the number of manufacturers in the site’s database will more than triple by the time the company completes a public-relations effort for an “official” launch in January 2000, reaching the 50,000 to 75,000 range.
“The only promotion we’ve done so far is banner exchanges [with other web sites], but we’ve still had thousands and thousands of people hit the site,” said Findlay, despite the fact that “it’s a strictly functional site, not a fluff site.” Findlay did not have exact figures on the number of visitors to the site.
Retailers can search for products in 21 main categories, including apparel/fashion, house and home, beauty and health, gourmet, toys and games, collectibles and electronics. Within these large categories, the site contains 800 to 900 more specific product categories. Retailers can search for a specific manufacturer or use the site’s search engine to bring up a category or product type, and the site also contains a new products showcase.
“Everything is in alphabetical order, including product and category names and manufacturer names,” said Findlay. “With other search engines, the more you pay, the higher up you go toward the front.”
InRetail.com does not charge manufacturers for basic listings, which include a product description and site links. Manufacturers wanting to put pictures of a particular product, or an entire portfolio, do pay some fees. Findlay is trying to keep these fees low, however. “We’re looking to get everybody on there, even small manufacturers and wholesalers, so we want to keep the cost relatively inexpensive,” he said. “The Internet is a global tool, so we’re going for quantity.”
Findlay plans to support the site with advertising, so he hopes to increase traffic to the site and charge advertisers on a per-visit basis. “They don’t pay until the ad gets seen, so at the end of the month we would say, for example, 20,000 people saw the ad and charge the company appropriately.”
InRetail.com also helps vendors with the mechanics of posting a product photograph online. “A lot of people are intimidated by that feature, but it’s really not that difficult,” he said. “We walk them through either scanning a photo, using digital photography or taking the picture to their local Kinko’s.”
Vendors can place their photos on the InRetail.com site themselves once they have received a password that allows them to log in, said Findlay. In addition, “If they already have an Internet catalog or portfolio, they can link to it through the site. It’s another avenue for retailers to see their product.”
The site is hosted by Metatechnics Information Technology, New Orleans, which also assisted Findlay with the site development.
InRetail.com’s simple design and retailer-friendly functionality grew out of Findlay’s own experiences operating a specialty gift boutique. “I wanted to make this as easy for retailers to use as possible, and I’m talking about the small retailers operating one to 10 shops that make up the bulk of retail in America. These people are usually owner/operators, and it’s difficult for them to get away from the store because of the time and expense involved. They get a much better benefit if they get online to see new products and vendors.”