Spokane Journal of Business

Rugged Trading Co.: Downsizing for dollars

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-—Kevin Blocker
Josh and Lindsey Roe, owners of Rugged Trading Co., standing here in the company’s warehouse, say sales are up substantially this year.

What started five years ago as a way for Lindsey Roe to make money selling used items online for a few friends has turned into a flourishing business for both her and her husband, Josh Roe.

Formed as Rugged Trading Co., Lindsey Roe began selling items online ranging from sports cards to toys to furniture. 

Roe originally started selling mostly high-end outdoor gear, which helped form the company’s name. Today, the majority of their inventory is from people who want to get rid of household items and earn some money in the process.

Rugged Trading Co., which outgrew an initial 1,800 square feet of storage space and now occupies 5,500-square feet at 7826 N. Market, keeps 40 percent of the gross proceeds of sold items. 

“A lot of people don’t know how, or aren’t comfortable using Craigslist or eBay,” Lindsey Roe says.

The Roes say the business has sold items ranging from classic toy cars to a forklift. The Roes even sold a light-duty box truck.

“We will sell just about any item that has a $30 resale value,” Josh Roe says.

If the seller’s item isn’t purchased within two weeks, the price is reduced daily until it’s sold. 

“At the end of our product life cycle, if an item doesn’t sale for at least $30 it gets pulled and put into one of two annual garage sales,” he says.

Along with Craigslist and eBay, Rugged Trading Co. sells merchandise through its website, www.ruggedtrading.com, and on Amazon and Facebook Marketplace.

The business got going in 2012 when the couple was looking for work here. From 2010 to 2012, they lived in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia, helping Josh’s father, Bill Roe, form a finance company there. Upon returning to Spokane, Josh worked as a management consultant for a handful of finance companies while Lindsey began selling items online.

Josh Roe completed a bachelor’s degree in recreation management from Western Washington University and a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Gonzaga University. Lindsey Roe earned a bachelor’s degree in general studies from Eastern Washington University.

By November 2015, Rugged Trading Co. had grown out of their friend’s garage into the  1,800-square-foot warehouse.

The Roes since have had to move inventory into the larger warehouse, just north of Spokane’s Hillyard neighborhood. The Roes say the growth they’re experiencing now has them reaching out for startup capital.

Last year was a breakout year as Rugged Trading Co. generated $83,000 in revenue. Halfway through this year, Rugged Trading Co. has generated $200,000.

“We’re looking for a financial partner. We need added working capital in order to keep up with demand,” says Josh Roe, who joined the business full time to assist Lindsey when the couple had their first child last year.

Rugged Trading Co. now has a total of four full-time employees, including the Roes. The couple say they need funding for at least one more employee and a light-duty box truck to handle local deliveries of online purchases.

All local deliveries to this point have been handled using a trailer hitched to Josh Roe’s pickup truck, he says.

Currently, there are more than 700 items for sale on Rugged Trading’s website, and the Roes say 95 percent of all items listed sell. More than 75 percent of all items the company sells online go to buyers outside the Spokane area.

Last week, a customer in the Midwest purchased a vanity table that cost $100. The buyer was willing to pay the $180 shipping cost.

“She reached out to me in an email and said it looked almost exactly like one she had in the ’90s,” Lindsey Roe says.

“Consignment stores are really niche,” Lindsey Roe says. “What we’ve learned is that there is so much that has value to so many people.”

The Roes meet with potential sellers at the warehouse, or at a seller’s home, to determine whether an item or multiple items have at least $30 value.

Rugged Trading Co. staff does its appraisals based on the value of comparable items for sale online. The final list price can vary based on the condition of the item being sold, Josh Roe says.

The Roes say they’d like to franchise the business.

“Our vision ultimately came from realizing how many baby boomers are transitioning and downsizing to the next phase of their lives,” he says.

Lindsey Roe says recently, some local businesses, one of which was Nick’s Handmade Boots, approached Rugged Trading Co. with older models of shoes that had been taking up inventory space at the store.

“We’re finding we’re a good resource for businesses with distressed and back inventory,” she says. “We’d like to start tapping into that market.”

Anecdotally, Roe says she often hears from sellers just how much they appreciate the opportunity to make some money while at the same time purging themselves of household items.

“I feel like a lot of what we’re doing here is helping people get rid of this burden that comes from having overaccumulated,” she says.

 Kevin Blocker
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Reporter Kevin Blocker, a University of Colorado alum, is a rec league basketball addict. At age 47, he still sports a 32-inch vertical leap. He has three children, all of whom are hooked on hoops.

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