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With more than 30 years in the retail and wholesale industry, Marc Joseph is the founder of DollarDays International, a premiere online wholesaler that helps small businesses compete against larger enterprises by offering more than 165,000 high-quality goods at closeout and wholesale prices close to those at which large chains purchase the same merchandise. Products sold through the site are the same kind of categories if you walked into a Macy’s, Target or Wal-Mart. Joseph is confident that the Internet is the next channel for distribution of wholesale and closeout products. DollarDays has over 2.5 Million registered users and averages over 1,100 new customers a day registering with DollarDays.
DollarDays has evolved into the premier B2B wholesale and closeout site selling over 165,000 general merchandise products to small businesses, nonprofit organizations and entrepreneurs.
MO: What were you doing before creating DollarDays? How did your background and experience help contribute to the development and success of the company?
Marc: Most of my life, I have been in retailing, from stocking the shelves of a men’s store in high school to being in the Department Store business with Burdines, the Discount Store business with Bill’s and the Specialty Store business with Everything’s A Dollar Store and Crown Books Store. So just about everything we do is based on the evaluation of how will the products we sell respond in a highly competitive retail marketplace. Early on, I learned you needed the right products at the right price at the right time to grow your business. That is why we concentrate on having a bunch of closeouts on our site to ensure having the right price; having fashion and trendy items for our customers to add to their stores; and offering a complete seasonal product line from Valentine’s Day to Easter to Halloween to Christmas so our customers have a one stop shop to fill their store needs.
MO: How has DollarDays evolved since you first started out over 10 years ago?
Marc: We felt that the Internet was going to be the next channel of distribution for wholesale and closeout products to small businesses, because very few major companies cared about the little guy; they would rather deal with the chains and ship truckloads. The Internet gave us an opportunity to offer a wide range of timely needed products to small businesses who were not exposed to these goods unless they went to the expense of attending trade shows or were lucky enough to have sales reps call on them; which in smaller town America was becoming a novelty because it was not worth it for a big company to go to a town for a $500 order anymore. So as we were consolidating a group of like buyers from all 50 states who needed the different products we carried, a funny thing happened along the way… Suppliers, who were not interested in going after customers individually through the Internet, found we had opened up a whole new marketplace for them, because they did not have the resources to call on each one of these stores. And now, where we used to have to beg vendors to sell to us by the case, we now have hundreds of suppliers coming to us to reach our market. So we were able to consolidate a market for buyers and at the same time create an efficient marketplace for sellers to expand their reach.
MO: DollarDays has experienced immense growth since you first launched in 2001. How have you managed to scale the business accordingly?
Marc: Scaling a business is a real challenge. Entrepreneurs are optimistic by nature, so with the glass being half full all the time, it is easy to be more aggressive than the business warrants. 6 years ago, we thought that just by adding sales people, the business should grow at the same proportion that the sales of each of the current salespeople were achieving. So we doubled our staff, doubled our facility and were not able to double our dreams. That lesson taught us that before you begin aggressively adding staff; make sure your current staff is completely maxed out in what they can do. If you surround yourself with people who share the same entrepreneurial spirit that you have, they will tell you when they have hit their point of maximum return and it is time to add. In today’s business world, companies are measured in productivity per person, and if you can manage that, you can scale a business.
MO: What do you attribute to the remarkable success of DollarDays? How are you different or better than your competitors?
Marc: Back in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit, changing the way the USA deals with disasters. Because we are an Internet based company, nonprofit organizations found us and we began supplying products to these organizations to help those in need. We sold everything from blankets to socks to pots and pans. Whereas our original mission for DollarDays was to make small businesses competitive with the chains in their areas, this experience with Katrina opened up our eyes in that because we sold inexpensive goods, we could go a long way to help churches, schools and nonprofits support their charitable causes with our products. Today over 1/3 of our sales supports these nonprofits. By expanding our marketplace to include nonprofits along with our traditional business of small businesses and entrepreneurs, we have been able to differentiate ourselves on the Internet.
MO: What inspires you to give away thousands of dollars to businesses and non profits?
Marc: This recession has taken a major toll on businesses. Business owners don’t have the luxury of borrowing against their homes to expand their businesses because of the dramatic decrease in home values; and most are just happy they have survived what our country has gone through since 2008. Nonprofits got hit even worse. Most experts are predicting that the nonprofit world will take another 3-4 years to recover from our economic disaster. We made the decision that because even though nonprofits were seeing record cash shortfalls, these organizations were still reaching out to help the less fortunate trying to maximize the limited resources they had left and that should be inspiration to us all. At the same time, we were beginning to see how using Facebook gave us the opportunity to reach a broader market than our core customer base, so we thought if we could marry social media with helping nonprofits and struggling businesses, it plays right into our mission of being an Internet company with a heart.
MO: You wrote the book, The Secrets of Retailing or How to Beat Wal-Mart! (SilverBack Books). Can you give our readers a few retailing tips for free?
Marc: Never borrow money from your brother. Now, I am sure my brother would give me the shirt of his back, but the principle here is in small business retailing, don’t mix family with business. Only 31% of businesses survive after 7 years, and if you are in the two thirds that does not make it and you owe your family big dollars for helping you get started; then you have pretty much ruined the rest of your life.
In today’s world, retailing has turned into theater. Because of the intense competition and because the consumer is still stuck in the recession that has been haunting us the last 3 years, every day is a battle to separate your store from the competition. When I ran a department store branch store, I used to pretend every morning that the curtain was going up on a brand new show and that everything in the store had to be perfect so the audience would give us a standing ovation. Retailing is like theater in that people want to be entertained when they enter your store. So make an effort to not only having your store look fabulous, but offer the customers’ periodic entertainment in your store like author signings in a book store, in store performances in a music store, tastings at food or beverage stores, fashion models at clothing stores or play demonstrations at toy stores.
Spending lots of dollars on traditional advertising is not the only way to get your message across. Guerilla marketing in your local market, which helps create the image of your store, can be just as effective. Look for the non-traditional publications like church bulletins, college newspapers, union newsletters, etc. to advertise hot trends or products from your store. Develop a relationship with your local media (Paper, TV and Radio) as the expert in your retailing field, so when the season comes you are the first resource they turn to when they want to know the hot toys for Christmas or the new fashion colors for Spring or what gifts men are buying their wives for Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, or what to look for when reading labels.
Every retail store needs to have a web site, even if it is to just to tell your customers what time you are open and how to get to your business. But in today’s rapid growth of shopping through the Internet whether it is using your PC or phone, your web site has developed into another store front and you must devote the resources to make your site as attractive as your store. The Internet has opened up an entirely new window of opportunity for small stores. You now have the opportunity to not only sell to your local market, but to sell goods all over the country…even the world. This new outlet gives the store owner the opportunity to turn their goods quicker and increase sales using the same footprint of their current retail location. To me, this is the most exciting opportunity retailers have had in the last 30 years to grow their business.