There's Still a Place Out There for the Budding Internet Retailer

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Small graphic design online T-shirt and gift retailer "Designs by Mish" grows 188.7 percent for the period 1st of November 2007 to 31st January 2008, pointing to the possibility of 2008 being the return of the "little guy with big dreams".

Whatever we can think of goes into this store -- perhaps we should do a kitchen sink design.

Small graphic design online T-shirt and gift retailer "Designs by Mish" reported a 3 month sales growth from 1st November 2007 to 31 January 2008 of 188.7 percent.

The big surprise though was that the strong Christmas growth was followed by a solid 155 percent increase in January. Chief Designer and owner Mish commented, "The January figure was very pleasing since a large number of customers flock to the internet for Christmas Gift shopping to avoid the congestion at the malls. Perhaps we are starting to benefit from the huge sale of PCs at the end of last year -- 2008 could be the year that the internet gets real market share."

Due to additions of new higher quality items and a change in product mix, the average retail price increased from $14.22 to $21.40, resulting in an impressive gross profit growth of 210 percent. Another milestone in the up and coming outfit was the breaking of the 100,000 products available barrier. "We are very fortunate in that we have a model that is not dependent on fashion and not limited by rentable store space. We can keep our best sellers going forever. Obviously we add new designs daily -- the nature of the search engines and the customer demand it." This raises an interesting point that the traditional retailers have always struggled with. When do you replace a product and how do you keep your traditional customers while gunning for new customers and new markets? The question is not an issue for online stores. With a decent layout you can add products endlessly and if you start seeing a conflict in design, simply buy a new .com.

"Designs by Mish" have three online stores and two more in the pipeline that should be ready for March and June, respectively. Recently renamed http://www.10tshirts.com is the oldest shop and the most general. "Whatever we can think of goes into this store -- perhaps we should do a kitchen sink design." Their next store, a more focused effort, http://www.worldsoccergifts.com, is dedicated to soccer, possibly for overseas customers the word football would be more appropriate but they seem to alternate the words throughout the site. So far they have made 192 countries available. This year should see the addition of more of the popular national animal country flag designs and the remaining countries of the world will be added. The newest store, http://www.serendipityposters.com, is dedicated to the reconstruction of vintage poster prints, apparently a painstakingly slow but very satisfying process. Prices are a bit steeper but then they require a lot more work. 2008 will see early 20th century art added but the posters will remain the core work. With over 2,000 posters waiting to be given back to the public as reconstructed prints the team has a lot of work ahead.

So what does the growth of a relatively small online retailer mean for the web and traditional retailers? Mish is very pragmatic, "Probably very little really other than the fact that there is still space for the small business in retail. With the malls pricing out independent shops in preference for large franchise and chain stores the web has given back a sustainable selling channel to the little guy. Let's face facts our designs are very raw done in the back of the garage style but we are hitting a nerve by offering T-shirt designs and subject matters that big retailers simply cannot. Our customers feel secure because we are backed by state of the art secured payment systems and a proven 30 day quality guarantee."

The other point that Mish fails to mention is that online stores like theirs ship worldwide and with the weak US dollar and a fully online catalogue, capturing international customers without investing in new store construction is a major advantage over traditional brick and mortar stores. In the big picture growths like these may appear rather meaningless but for the little guy with big dreams the web is recovering its luster that it lost after the internet chrash. In 2008 hard work and real substance may just be winning back fans of the online miracle.

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Hamish Greer

Hamish Greer
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