The following article appeared in the June 7, 2006 edition of Internet Retailer Magazine.
A focus on niche e-commerce keeps Neeps a breed apart
Neeps Inc. likes breeding niche e-commerce sites almost as much as its core clientele likes adopting and breeding their favorite dogs, felines, ferrets and rabbits.
Neeps, an online pet supplies retailer, is launching three new niche web stores in the next few weeks and will end 2006 with as many as 45, more than double the 17 e-commerce sites the company operated in 2005, it says.
In April Neeps, No. 498 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide to Retail Web Sites, launched its 14th web store, MyLittleK9.com, a pet supplies e-commerce site targeted at new puppy owners and owners of small breeds such as Chihuahuas, Dachshunds and Yorkshire Terriers. The company soon will follow up MyLittleK9.com with three new web stores—BuyBeefeaters.com, BuyMerrick.com and BuyOutwardHound.com.
Neeps, which launched its first web store, The FerretStore.com, in 1994, sees niche retailing as a key merchandising strategy in attracting targeted buyers and standing out online from other larger pet supplies direct marketers or chains such as Drs. Foster & Smith Inc. and PETCO Animal Supplies Inc. “Unless you specialize as a retailer on the web, you’re dead,” contends Neeps president Scott Sanfilippo. “By launching more microsites we continue to niche out segments of the pet industry that others don’t concentrate on.”
As part of its 2006 web initiative, Neeps is launching up to 30 new web stores, including five in June. The company can launch multiple web sites in a short timeframe because Neeps is a sister company of Solid Cactus, a web design and consulting company that specializes in Yahoo Stores, Yahoo’s straightforward e-commerce platform. “With all these launches we are looking to capture a niche audience with each new store,” Sanfilippo says.
Neeps develops new sites based on current merchandising trends. The company, for example, studies keywords and search engine rankings to determine new opportunities. “We launched MyLittleK9.com because Paris Hilton is making owning a small dog very fashionable,” Sanfilippo says. “We noticed a big jump in people searching on smaller dog phrases and keywords and decided to launch a microsite that caters to that niche.”
Neeps also studies which products are moving particularly well from its online inventory of more than 5,000 SKUs and then develops a web store that features the products of only one company, such as the upcoming launch of BuyMerrick.com, a supplier of natural dog treats and food. “We watch what happens on a number of fronts and then try and take advantage of the opportunity,” Sanfilippo explains.
Neeps’ niche strategy should pay dividends next year: The company expects web sales to increase about 30% in 2006 to $5.2 million, Sanfilippo predicts.