Choosing the Right eCommerce ‘Costume’
As the owner of several retail businesses, a board member of Retail Global and the author of ‘Making Money on eBay for Dummies’, Nathan Huppatz is no stranger to retail. He’s perhaps most known for his co-founding of Costumes.com.au, however this wasn’t Nathan’s first foray into the e-commerce industry. His journey began back in 1999.
“I always had an interest in the internet, so found myself working as an eCommerce Consultant,” he explains. “It was interesting, but I soon found myself an opportunity working with my current business partners in a small online venture – publishing auto magazines online.”
How it all unfolded
After a redundancy from Orica, Nathan and his team shortly opened their own auto parts store – the first of several businesses to come – selling fishing equipment, treadmills, musical instruments and – of course, costumes.
The majority of these have since closed – leaving costumes.com.au and readytoship.com.au as Nathan’s primary businesses.
Today, costumes.com.au is one of Australia’s largest retailers of costumes and party supplies. Since its conception in 2009, the site has won a several awards and fulfilled over 180,000 orders.
Nathan also tells the story of his other venture – ReadyToShip, which began in 2005 when his eBay-based fishing business was exploding, creating a need for a faster system.
“We needed to get orders in to Australian Air Express so we could print labels quickly, and then get the tracking data back to our customers quickly. We added features like address fixing, a searchable database and other stuff. Eventually, ChannelAdvisor asked us to make it a product that their customers could use, so we made it public.”
ReadyToShip now supports most major platforms and carriers, processing millions of shipments each year. “I love the product as it genuinely helps online retailers,” says Nathan. “It works really well, has some great new features coming later this year, and saves people heaps of time!”
A Word of Advice
With such a wealth of experience, Nathan has gained valuable knowledge of the start-up process. So which pearls of wisdom would he pass on to up-and-comers?
“It all comes down to the individual. I couldn’t sit in the same job for too long. I was interested in change, growth and doing different new things. Moving to a new opportunity was never something I was too scared to do.”
But it’s not always plain sailing. He goes on to add;
“Starting a business isn’t for everyone. There are ups and downs – tougher times. It takes risk, investment, time and there is every chance it may not work. You have to really want it and be committed.”
Even when a retailer is established, there’s no reason to stop evolving. There’s always something you could be doing differently – but different doesn’t always mean ‘better’ or ‘worse’.
“Lots of businesses could execute certain things a little better for sure. Businesses need to offer as much value as they can to their target customers,” Nathan advises.
“I think the key is to keep trying new things and keep evolving as fast as you can to keep up with online retail. And once you really start to understand your customers and what their needs and wants are, that’s when you can really have some success.”
Another hot topic in retail is whether to create a retail presence both online and off. But Nathan doesn’t believe retailers necessarily need both.
“We have never intended to move to a bricks and clicks model, although over the past 12 months we have thought about a few different ideas. It isn’t something that we have planned for the immediate future, but you can never totally dismiss any idea.”
Costumes.com.au has won several awards (including SmartCompany and Inside Retail’s Top 50). Nathan tells us which elements make the site stand out amongst its competitors.
“I think one thing would be the growth we have shown over the past 5- 6 years. We have worked hard and executed pretty well. Sure we have made some mistakes here and there and tried a few things that didn’t work out, but overall I think we have worked well as a team. We have built a nice brand that means something to our customers. I am proud of that.”
Being in such a niche industry, Nathan says his most commonly asked question is why he decided to start an online costume business! As for his answer, it’s simple:
“Find a problem you can solve and solve it the best way possible.”
What’s Still to Come
This year, Nathan will be a guest speaker at the 2016 Retail Global, discussing Google Analytics and how it can be used to improve eCommerce sites. He’ll also be hosting a round table as well as a panel on international shipping.
Finally, he’ll be exhibiting ReadyToShip and chatting to attendees about eCommerce. His only request? ‘Come and say G’day‘!
Nathan’s message to anyone thinking of coming along to Retail Global
“If you are in eCommerce, this is the one conference you want to go to that offers focused advice, practical tips and learnings from experts. The core audience is people like yourself – all online retailers, all wanting to learn. The networking is great too and some of the relationships I have made at this conference over the past 10 years of attending and presenting have been fantastic and have certainly helped our business growth.”
Will you miss out? Tickets are available now at retailglobal.com.au for the 10th Annual Retail Global for eCommerce Retailers.