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Shave Shop?

For some time now I have been wondering about how one would start up a web site dedicated to selling shave supplies. I understand the logistics of setting up the site (from a technical viewpoint), what I do not understand is how you would obtain the actual goods you are selling.

For example, how would someone go about selling Trumpers shave creams, soaps, etc.? How would you obtain them? I assume you would have to contact a distributor. I have heard that T&H is the easiest to deal with (at least in North America). Is it because of an increased effort on their part to establish a North American presence?

How much would you typically have to buy up front?

I certainly don't have any answers to your questions, but I want to say that I am excited by the prospect of another potential place to shop. The best suggestion that I could make might be to ask owners of similar businesses (QED, ME, etc). Though, if we are looking at it from a game theoretic perspective, they may have some very good reasons to not share their information. Good luck.
Well, it is certainly nothing more than an idea at this point. It is something I have thought about for some time but there is so much to figure out.

I doubt many online e-tailers would be overly anxious to help potential competitors by giving away a great deal of hard earned knowledge. That is why I thought I would ask people around here. :)
James, you would need to contact Trumpers direct on purchasing their wares. T&H has a north american distributor in Chicago. Taylors you would also have to contact them direct. I hope you have the capital to purchase from these lines. Most companies require a minimum purchase that can be quite expensive. Good luck.
James - not sure if you are in Canada or the US, but if its the former, I think there is a gap in the market (GF Trumper at $50 for soap in a bowl!) (but you might not get a lot of business from US customers who are likely going to prefer dealing with US vendors).

By way of disclaimer, I do not have any personal experience opeating an e-tail operation, but have consulted with clients who do. So, with that warning, here are my thoughts (for what you think they're worth).

The issue of location aside, you would have to figure out who distributes the products you want and what types of quantities you need to purchase to get competitive pricing. Some distributors may have minimum quantity requirments before they will even consider dealing with you. While other e-tailers would certainly know about this, I suspect they will tell you to do your own homework. But with the Internet and your phone, you could likely get a good deal of information in fairly short order.

In terms of initial outlay for stock, much would depend on how broad your initial offering would be (for example do you want to stock a full line of brushes), how much stock you want to keep on hand and how quickly you can get resupplied - which in turn may be impacted by minimum order requirements (don't count on being able to buy one tub of cream or razor at a time). You also need to figure out what terms - cash up front, 30 days, 60 days (likley cash up front at first). There are a host of other logistics, customs (if you want to import products from abroad), tax, legal and financial issues on the supply side, but these are the basic ones.

You would then need to design a good webpage - fast, quality photos, helpful product descriptions, good cross-links, shopping basket function, etc. (however you could likely start with having people e-mail you and sending reply e-mails with order totals, but this is not as easy or professional looking).

Finally, you would need to have the ability to process paypal or credit payments, which isn't too difficult to do, but adds to cost and administration.

Obviously, there is the issue of shipping, but this isn't too big a deal to figure out and the key is to keep shipping/packing costs in line with those of other e-tailers.

All of the above is just the nuts and bolts - what you really need is a way to market your e-store - obviously bulletin boards such as this one help, but if you are serious, you might want to hire someone to help you make sure you come up on appropriate search engine querries (this is a whole topic in itself). However, this is not totally necessary if you can get people to spread the word, which brings me to my final point.

Getting people to spread the word requires you have something that others don't - for example a proprietary line of products. Most important, you have to be really knowledgeable and have great customer relationship skills. I know Charles at QED (who I have dealt with) and Lee at Lee's Razors (who I haven't dealt with, but who everyone speaks highly of) have this in spades. If you can't offer a good selection of products (and possibly something no one else has - this is what will get people to your store, where they will then buy stuff that other people also sell - for example I heard good things about QED soaps and then bought some other stuff once I was placing an order) and can't give outstanding customer service, you probably shouldn't bother wasting your time.

Anyhow just my very long two cents on this interesting subject - as I've also thought about starting something in Canada (pipe dream as I have a busy day job - but there may be scope for a buying group).
I seem to remember someone posting a question over at MenEssentials asking why they decided to go with T&H over Trumpers/Taylors. James (the owner for anyone who may not know) responded that T&H was the easiest to acquire from, so he chose them. I assume that is directly related to their North American presence.

What kind of minimum order would one have to consider from someone like GFT? $1000? $5000? I have absolutely no idea.
James, from a consumer's perspective, I'd love to see Canadians be able to acquire products like Trumper's, D.R. Harris, and Castle Forbes. T&H is more readily available and Taylor's can already be acquired rather cheaply from the states (although of course if you can compete with their prices by all means do stock it as well), but there are other great products that seem to be carried by far less retailers. I'm sure they have very good reasons for not carrying them, but if you could make it work that would certainly be a service that I think many people would want to take advantage of.
James, are you in Canada?

If so, I think there is an opportunity - in addition to stocking hard to find items, having access to a good selection is something that many Canadians would find useful - especially since you wouldn't have to worry about duty/customs. However, the prices would need to be competitive with US e-tailers and shipping would have to be reasonable (I've heard that its cheaper to ship from the US to Canada than across Canada, but haven't looked into it).
Yes, I am located in Canada. Unfortunately, I can vouch for the insane shipping rates charged by Canada Post. Often, it actually is cheaper to ship to the US.

I think one of the biggest tricks would be finding a way to ensure US customers would be willing to order from a Canadian e-tailer.
Verry difficult - unless you also have a US address that you can ship from. My e-bay experience (limited to the purchasing side) is that items sold by Canadian vendors tend to sell for less than comparable items sold by US vendors. I believe Mens Eseentials has gone the dual track route (they have a .ca and .com sites).

I think Americans prefer to deal with Americans (or vendors with a US presence) as they don't have to deal with customs issues (the same reason why Canadians are so interested in having a Canadian supplier).

I also think that Canada post shipping rates to the US are not competitive with the US parcel post rates (my last shipment from QED, which included a couple of shave sticks, a razor and travel brush only cost $5 - $6). The only way to be competitive with US vendors in terms of shipping is likely to ship to US customers from the US.

The upside to a Canadian location is that, while you're in a smaller market, there's less competition - being a big fish in a small pond can be every bit as lucrative as being a small fish in a big pond, if not more so.
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