Don't even think about messing with Buy.com this quarter.
The site that's positioned as an Internet technology superstore with the "lowest prices on earth" is on a roll, with feisty CEO Greg Hawkins leading the charge.
Mr. Hawkins, a veteran of wholesale consumer electronics and computer distributor Ingram Micro, followed closely the rise of Internet retailing during his career and knew the major players. "I was able to watch the development of most of these business models and I understood Buy.com's position in the Internet market," Mr. Hawkins says.
Mr. Hawkins was recruited earlier this year by Scott Blum, Buy.com's founder and chairman who resigned last month. Mr. Hawkins leads an operation that boasts a selection of 1 million electronic goods, computers, software programs, books and CDs. Buy.com was ranked No. 2 after Amazon.
com as one of the top 20 Web retailers in August by PC Data.
"We're all about great prices and great selection," Mr. Hawkins adds. To support its low prices-deep selection brand premise, Buy.com has taken an aggressive marketing approach, advertising on the Super Bowl via an in-house campaign. The Super Bowl spot was followed by print, outdoor and direct marketing, some of which Black Rocket, San Francisco, created. Buy.com is now reviewing for a new agency.
Buy.com, bankrolled by Softbank Capital Partners, News Corp. and other investors, will spend more than $50 million on advertising this year. But don't look for banner ads to be a big part of the mix.
"We do not have a number of deals with the large portals," Mr. Hawkins says, adding, "We haven't felt they are the best use of our media dollars, so we've done traditional media spending."
Look for Buy.com to shift into high gear, as it prepares to cash in on what's expected to be the hottest cyber-Christmas ever, and readies an initial public offering.
But while the e-tailing giants are pulling out all the stops, smaller players will need to take cover.
"We're headed into a period of consolidation, and the opportunity for single category e-tailers is going to be challenging," Mr. Hawkins says.
"We're a multicategory site and a fairly strong player."
Copyright November 1999, Crain Communications Inc.