July 24, 2008

Rochester, Minn.-Based Dot-Com Survivor Thrives

By Jeff Kiger, Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn.

Jul. 23--Defying the current economic slowdown, dot-com survivor BuyOnlineNow.Com is growing at a record pace.

Founded in 2000, the Rochester-based online retailer sold $340 worth of office equipment during its first month.

Now it is now on track to hit about $3 million in sales for July, topping its previous monthly record of $2.5 million. Founder and CEO Bob Herman expects sales to be up 92 percent this month over July 2007.

What is causing this seller of shredders, staplers and office chairs to boom when other companies are struggling?

"It is simple as trying to do things the right way," says Herman with a laugh while sitting in cubicle in front of three monitors, with the cast of TV's "The Office" watching over him from a signed poster on the wall.

These days the northwest Rochester company attracts regular national attention from business lists like Internet Retailer Top 500 and Inc. Magazine's fastest growing web-only dot-coms.

The path from a one-man office to a building full of employees, cubicles and computers connected to a warehouse has not been an easy one.

"I didn't know anything about selling office supplies (when he started during the dot-com heyday) It was brutal," says co-owner Herman. "We didn't make any money for four years."

Now his Web site offers about 28,000 products. About 75 percent of the sales are made online and the rest are done by telephone.

"We try to stay out of the buying process as much as we can," Herman said. "We should almost be invisible to the process."

The average visitor spends about 3 1/2 minutes on BuyOnlineNow and looks at more than five pages.

The product is shipped either directly from the manufacturer, through a national distributor or from BuyOnlineNow's new warehouse.

"We are just beginning to learn how to do it (use a warehouse)," he says. "We think it really unlocks a lot of opportunities for us."

But it's not merely whistles and bells that have brought success, he said.

"We just work pretty hard and try to take care of our customers," he says.


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