Online Retail Business

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John
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Tue Jan 01, 2019 10:53 pm

Longshanks wrote:
Tue Jan 01, 2019 10:06 pm
Regarding your venture, I think the shrinkage of retailers flags a business opportunity rather than a "steer clear" warning.
This is what gave me the idea. There aren't really too many out there that I'm aware of. Of course there's P&C, but they are huge and I forget about the orders I made by the time they reach my door. I recently made my first purchase from tobaccopipes.com and their shipping was quick. That went a long way with me. Making a daily trip to the post office with a bin of sales (hopefully) doesn't seem that difficult to manage.
It doesn't take an FDA regulation to shut your doors if you have low quality product, slow order processing or poor customer service... and there's your niche.
Well said.
If there is any profit to be had in retailing Dr Grabow pipes, offering each pipe individually (just like artisan pipes) would put you ahead of the aforementioned website from the get go.
Thanks for the tip. As for tobacco availability, this wholesaler near me has a bunch of great brands, but no pipes. I'll have to figure out how to get my hands on some pipes. I see MM has wholesale pipes on their site. Seeing how long it took me to make a test site means that maintaining a full lineup is a full-time job. If I start off small for two years, I'm afraid it will never take off. I guess as long as I'm in the black and having fun, it's worth the experience.
Longshanks
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Tue Jan 01, 2019 11:03 pm

John wrote:
Tue Jan 01, 2019 10:53 pm
Longshanks wrote:
Tue Jan 01, 2019 10:06 pm
Regarding your venture, I think the shrinkage of retailers flags a business opportunity rather than a "steer clear" warning.
This is what gave me the idea. There aren't really too many out there that I'm aware of. Of course there's P&C, but they are huge and I forget about the orders I made by the time they reach my door. I recently made my first purchase from tobaccopipes.com and their shipping was quick. That went a long way with me. Making a daily trip to the post office with a bin of sales (hopefully) doesn't seem that difficult to manage.
It doesn't take an FDA regulation to shut your doors if you have low quality product, slow order processing or poor customer service... and there's your niche.
Well said.
If there is any profit to be had in retailing Dr Grabow pipes, offering each pipe individually (just like artisan pipes) would put you ahead of the aforementioned website from the get go.
Thanks for the tip. As for tobacco availability, this wholesaler near me has a bunch of great brands, but no pipes. I'll have to figure out how to get my hands on some pipes. I see MM has wholesale pipes on their site. Seeing how long it took me to make a test site means that maintaining a full lineup is a full-time job. If I start off small for two years, I'm afraid it will never take off. I guess as long as I'm in the black and having fun, it's worth the experience.
Plenty of corn cob smokers on here as well. 8-)
Longshanks
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Fr_Tom
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Wed Jan 02, 2019 4:45 am

sisyphus wrote:
Tue Jan 01, 2019 5:56 pm
pipe smokers are generally cheapskates and there are existing businesses that sell at very low margins online, Volume is the only way to make a profit, and the competition is entrenched. Not to be dismissive of your idea, I just think it has a very low probability of success in this market, which is ever shrinking and faces an uncertain future due to fda regulation and state taxes.
This is very close to what I was going to say initially when I read the post, but I did not want to be Debbie Downer. It is a competitive market for a heavily regulated and shrinking "hobby" market. Customer service goes a long way, but price rules at the end of the day. To make it with the pricing, you need very high volume.

I worked for a while in a bicycle shop. The retail end of stuff was horrible. People would come in and ask us to match prices at a point that would have represented a loss for us. We just were not buying by the thousand to get the good pricing. You can't mail order bicycle repairs, and so for us the repairs and the things like custom wheels were our bread and butter.
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avid
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Wed Jan 02, 2019 9:09 am

- Business license requirements. Will this change if I move to another state?
don't know much about the others, but will say the licensing issues will vary from state-to-state, and in some case county-to-county
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oldbill
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Wed Jan 02, 2019 5:19 pm

I would say that in this era of Amazon offer a product line that is small but is more specialized than the big internet retailers. In another life I was a retail nursery manager and one of my good friends decided that he would open his own little business selling some plants and soil amendments but soon found that he couldn't compete with the big box stores on pricing and inventory. He almost gave up but then decided to specialize in Bonsai trees and related products (they take a special kind of soil, pot and care) and his little enterprise took off because he was selling something that is pretty hard or impossible to find at the big home centers.
I would recommend specializing in one or two things and doing it better than P&C or Smoking Pipes, maybe carry only meerschaum or cobs or specialize in only English blends but carry everything that is available in that particular item, offering more choice on those particular items to the customer than the big boys can offer. ;)
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John
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Wed Jan 02, 2019 6:46 pm

oldbill wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 5:19 pm
I would say that in this era of Amazon offer a product line that is small but is more specialized than the big internet retailers. In another life I was a retail nursery manager and one of my good friends decided that he would open his own little business selling some plants and soil amendments but soon found that he couldn't compete with the big box stores on pricing and inventory. He almost gave up but then decided to specialize in Bonsai trees and related products (they take a special kind of soil, pot and care) and his little enterprise took off because he was selling something that is pretty hard or impossible to find at the big home centers.
I would recommend specializing in one or two things and doing it better than P&C or Smoking Pipes, maybe carry only meerschaum or cobs or specialize in only English blends but carry everything that is available in that particular item, offering more choice on those particular items to the customer than the big boys can offer. ;)
This is great. I was thinking about only carrying English/Balkan blends, but the wholesaler will play a big part in that and I still have to contact them. Looks like that Aristocob guy does well selling only cobs too. Thanks for your input!
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Middle Earth
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Wed Jan 02, 2019 7:09 pm

If you love what you are doing, you have a good chance of success.
Then it is not work but doing something that you love.
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Billy Joe
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Thu Jan 03, 2019 5:11 pm

Good luck, that is an interesting idea. I always prefer smaller businesses for smaller purchases.
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John
Whalehead King
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Thu Jan 03, 2019 6:52 pm

I would think long and hard on how you are going to market this new business. The questions you're asking are basic business questions. You can't just throw up a website and expect people to be filling their virtual shopping carts with tins of tobacco. You should be thinking about what service you are offering that is different from everyone else, who will be interested in it, what unsatisfied niche you're filling. and why they should be willing to support you by purchasing from you.

I've just skimmed the responses so far but my advice is to think long and hard about how you are going to bring this site to market before you launch it. The nuts-and-bolts of the shopping cart and the website are easy enough to manage. How are you going to stand apart from the competition and make tis attractive to your potential customers? How are you even going to reach them? If you don't have a marketing strategy on the internet, where most of your business is going to take place if you don't have a B&M, you need a strategy for that to be successful. I have seen plenty of people in my industry die because they can't be bothered to be on FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
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PipeProfessor
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Thu Jan 03, 2019 7:50 pm

This sounds like fun and good luck with it! My own advice would be to not isolate or limit yourself in the pipe tobacco arena. I understand you wanting to be unique and specialize in something such as Scott from Aristocob (and he has done a dang fine job), however, if you only sell English/Balkan tobacco per se, then you’ve already cut out a good percentage of your customer base (i.e., Virginia and aromatic smokers-which if I’m not mistaken are the biggest groups of pipe enthusiasts). If they can’t get their pipe tobacco needs met at your site, there’s a good chance they won’t stop in to buy other products either. Some parting words from author and physiologist Adam Grant as you continue planning, “You don’t have to be the first. You just have to be different and better.” Good luck!
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