Spokane Journal of Business

Etailz Evolution: Online retailer is growing post acquisition

Company has added 100 people in less than two years

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-—LeAnn Bjerken
Etailz Inc. has moved into its new headquarters in Spokane Valley. The space was designed to have a similar feel to its previous offices.
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-—LeAnn Bjerken
Kerri Rhodes, marketing director for etailz, says the company currently retails 20,000 products via Amazon’s fulfillment program.
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Nearly two years after it was acquired by Trans World Entertainment Corp. for $75 million, Spokane-based online retailer etailz Inc. is expanding its offerings, adding employees, and increasing its sales.

“While much has changed over the years, we’ve stayed true to our roots,” says company CEO Josh Neblett. “We began this company with a bootstrap mentality and a love for innovation, and we’ve held onto that pioneering spirit. It’s led us to becoming the top experts in online retail, and we don’t have any intention of slowing down.”

Etailz, which now operates as a wholly-owned subsidiary of New York-based retailer Trans World Entertainment, reported revenues of $51.6 million in the second quarter of 2018, an 18.6 percent increase over the year-earlier quarter. 

While etailz and Trans World still operate largely independent of one another, Neblett says the acquisition has enabled etailz to access additional capital, resulting in significant growth and investment in new areas including technology, private labeling, marketing, and internal expansion.

 “We’ve been able to leverage Trans World’s shipping facility on the East Coast as well as increase our purchasing power through the Trans World relationship,” he says. “We’ve also continued refining and expanding our technological capabilities, and now have extensive access to the data scientists that Trans World utilizes.”

After an initial layoff following the 2016 acquisition—an 8 percent workforce reduction of its 190-person staff at that time—etailz’s employee numbers have been trending up. The company now employs 288 people, up about 100 jobs from its workforce prior to the acquisition, and it’s currently advertising 15 open positions on its website.

In July, Etailz also moved into a new 40,000-square-foot headquarters at the former Itron complex in Spokane Valley, having outgrown its former 10,000-square-foot headquarters at 850 E. Spokane Falls Blvd.

Neblett says the move has proven to be a good choice for the company.

“We needed the extra space, and the design looks great,” he says. “We tried to replicate the vibe of our old space, so it has a similar feel, but the square footage per head has doubled.” 

The new facility includes volleyball and basketball courts, two external barbeque areas, a gym with a yoga and barre studio, 10 meeting rooms, a photography room, an enclosed café, several informal meeting and lounge spaces, and scooters employees can borrow to move from one end of the building to the other.

Kerri Rhodes, marketing director for etailz, says that while the company started as a conventional online retailer, it closed its direct ecommerce websites this year in favor of selling products directly through Amazon and other online marketplaces.

“We recognized we were moving in a different direction, so we decided to close the direct websites this year and put all of our focus toward the marketplace side of the business,” Rhodes says. “As we continue to evolve, we’ve also begun to further establish our partnership with Amazon.”

Part of that evolution has been etailz’s focus on developing new software that caters to marketplace strategies, she says.

“We’ve always been technology driven, and that’s been a foundation for our retail growth,” Rhodes says. “We’ve begun leveraging some of our existing technology, enhancing it to better serve the marketplace.”

She says etailz software tracks data on product popularity and trends, which can then be harvested and used to gain insight into better marketing.

“We use that data to find new ways to market our products and grow sales, as well as help other companies to do the same,” she says.

Rhodes says that same data also helps etailz establish new business relationships with brands it’s not currently working with.

“We’re looking at who else out there is selling on Amazon, and could they benefit from our partnership?” she says. “This in turn increases the number of products we sell on marketplaces.”

Rhodes says etailz currently retails 20,000 products via Amazon’s fulfillment program and sells an additional 150,000 products through drop shipments—the process of moving goods from the manufacturer directly to the retailer, bypassing conventional distribution channels.

“We work with about 2,500 brands altogether,” she says. “We sell products on Amazon, Ebay, Jet, Walmart, and Wish.com, as well as internationally through Amazon’s UK and EU programs, and Canadian sites.” 

Since moving into its new space, the company also hosted a hiring event in early August to recruit new employees, Rhodes says.

“The hiring event went really well and resulted in 14 offers of employment,” she says. “It’s possible we’ll plan similar events in the future.”

Looking ahead, Neblett says the company plans to continue growing and adding employees.

“It’s an exciting time to be at etailz, and we’re always looking to bring on new team members who share our values and work ethic,” he says. “E-commerce continues to evolve, and we aim to keep etailz at the forefront of its evolution.”

Rhodes says etailz plans to share some of its marketplace expertise at the Master the Marketplace Amazon seller conference, which will take place Oct. 16-18, at the Spokane Convention Center.

“The conference will be tailored toward some of the brands we work with now, and some we’d like to work with in the future, as well as community members who are looking for ways to optimize and grow their business on marketplaces like Amazon,” she says.

Rhodes says the conference will feature breakout sessions on a variety of topics, including marketing, international expansion, and working with Amazon.

She says etailz also plans to offer two additional evening conference activities—a welcome banquet at the Davenport hotel downtown, and a catered celebration at the company’s Spokane Valley headquarters that will include a tour.

Originally called Green Cupboards, etailz was co-founded by Neblett and his wife, Sarah, along with noted Spokane angel investor Tom Simpson in 2008. 

Often cited as one of the Spokane area’s most successful startups, the business began as an online retailer specializing in ecofriendly household goods, but expanded its offerings, growing into a multimillion-dollar technology and retail company. 

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken is the most recent addition to the Journal's news team. A poet, cat lover and antique enthusiast, LeAnn is also an Eastern Washington University alum.

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