Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Got $10 burning a hole in your pocket? Buy something

NPR ran my piece on the SomethingStore yesterday. What's the SomethingStore? It's a story that sells you... something. You don't know what it is. You just know that it costs $10. It could be an iPod shuffle, or it could be a coffee mug.

Entrepreneur Sami Bay started the store late last year. In the first six months or so, he sold about 5,000 somethings. Then last month, the blogosphere took notice. First, the Thrillist email service covered his store, and then it was featured on a series of high profile blogs including Gizmodo and Download Squad. In the last month alone, Bay says the company has sold another 5,000 items. Bay is hiring additional staff to keep up.

Most small companies would have a hard time dealing with a transition like that, and for a few weeks, the SomethingStore did fall behind on orders. But they're back to schedule and packages should arrive within 7 days of the date you place your order. Here's the company's secret: They don't have to carry any inventory. Since they don't promise every customer an iPod, digital camera, coffee mug, or duct tape wallet, they don't need to keep a huge pile of those items lying around. Whatever their suppliers send in the morning, they can ship out in the afternoon. I didn't have time to mention this in my NPR story, but it's kind of a brilliant little business strategy.

Bay does say that there may be some changes in store for the SomethingStore. For example, he's thinking about letting customers choose "something for men," "something for women," or "something for kids." Right now, there's a chance you might get women's clothing if you're a man or vice versa. Bay is also thinking about charging a flat fee for shipping at some point in the future. Shipping is currently included, but since the SomethingStore spends an average of $2.50 per parcel, he says it probably makes more sense to think of the average price of an item as $7.50.

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