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Majap E-tailer Eyes Nat'l Sales - Twice

Majap E-tailer Eyes Nat'l Sales

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A Texas-based e-commerce firm that has been selling major appliances to local area consumers over the Internet for several months now hopes to expand its sales to both coasts by Christmas.

ApplianceOrder.com began selling white goods via its web site on May 15 to consumers in the Austin, Texas, area. On July 4, it expanded to the Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth markets and began a TV advertising campaign in all three regions.

Now, the company is looking to roll out e-commerce appliance sales to major markets across the country, said president and founder Jason Wesbecher, who launched the site with the backing of Trilogy Software, an Austin-based technology firm.

"We're currently seeking funding from venture capitalists for a national rollout," Wesbecher said. "Our goal is to be the largest vendor of white goods in the country and to provide the most objective, meaningful descriptions of product features and benefits."

The concept behind the site is to use local warehousing and delivery providers to stock and deliver the appliances, he explained. Right now

applianceOrder.com buys appliances from independent distributors, then stockpiles them in three warehouses owned by Appliance Distributors, a Texas firm that specializes in selling used and scratch-and-dent appliances.

When an order comes in over the web site, the merchandise is delivered and installed by Appliance Distributors' personnel, who also remove the old appliance to add to that company's inventory. Most deliveries are made within nine working days of the online order, and delivery, and installation are free.

Eventually, applianceOrder.com hopes to purchase the appliances directly from the manufacturers, he added.

One thing that sets applianceOrder.com apart from other white-goods web sites is that in addition to purchasing products over the Internet using a credit card, customers can opt to pay by check after the appliance is installed in their home.

"We feel that the biggest barrier to e-commerce is e-commerce itself," said Wesbecher. "Our average customer is an appliance buyer, not an Internet buyer. Our research indicates that 10% of our customers are first-time Internet shoppers. And if they feel more comfortable paying by check, that's fine with us."

He estimates that 25% to 30% of applianceOrder.com's customers choose to pay by check.

The Internet site currently offers appliances in five categories -- refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, dryers and ranges -- under the top multiline white-goods brands.

The site allows online shoppers to choose the brand, features, color and other variables they want; provides the "average retail price" along with

applianceOrder.com's price (said to be about 15% below traditional brick & mortar retailers' pricing); and shows the percentage saved.

"We absolutely will expand our brand offering," Wesbecher said. And the site will soon add appliance categories, such as room air conditioners and trash compactors.

As for broadening its reach into online consumer electronics sales, "for now we just want to make sure we've built the best white-goods site around," he said. "By then, the verdict will be in on how Amazon.com is doing selling consumer electronics, and we'll see."

Once applianceOrder.com begins to expand geographically, it will head for the largest-volume markets first, Wesbecher said, although he declined to specify which markets those will be. "It will be a phased rollout, because we need a local presence for delivery and installation, and it takes a while to set those agreements up," he added.

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