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Why DollarDays is Testing International Waters

marc joseph alibabaUpon cursory inspection, the DollarDays website appears to be as American as Chicken McNuggets. After all, the site’s name is not RupeeDays or YenDays, and there’s a U.S. flag peeking out from the banner on the home page. Since its debut in 2001, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based online wholesaler and closeout-goods vendor has been distributing a wide array of low-cost merchandise to dollar stores, gift shops and other discount retailers, the vast majority of them in the U.S. All of the 300,000 products available on the site are sourced in the U.S., too.

DollarDays CEO Marc Joseph is not exactly leaving those American roots behind—but he is expanding his root system. Joseph, who founded the site because he thought the cost efficiencies of Internet-based distribution “would give small businesses a chance to play on a level playing field with the big guys,” today is growing his e-commerce business by using the Internet to go global.

The Internet “has made the world a lot smaller,” says Joseph, a retail industry veteran who worked for Federated Department Stores and was a senior vice president at Crown Books. “When I was younger I had to jump on a plane to go have a face-to-face with vendors in the Philippines, China, India. It was very expensive and time-consuming. The Internet has streamlined all that.”

E-commerce is also making it easier for merchants to market and sell their goods overseas. Although DollarDays, which has 3.5 million registered users and gets about a million visitors a month, has only just begun a serious international expansion effort, last year small retailers and entrepreneurs in some 40 countries purchased goods from the site, which specifically advertises its shipping service to Canada, the U.K., Europe, Puerto Rico, Australia and New Zealand.

DollarDays also runs a Canadian mini-site featuring products targeted for that market. But Joseph says he’s not interested in developing foreign-language mini-sites because of the complexity and cost. With just 50 employees, “We are lean and mean and all of our people are concentrating on how we grow the business,” says Joseph, who still finds time to blog about business and charity for The Huffington Post website. “Creating websites in other languages is a whole other effort.”

Click here to read Joseph’s Huffington Post column on the outlook for back-to-school sales in the U.S. this year.

Instead, he’s turning to online marketplaces to expand DollarDays’ reach. DollarDays is selling on Amazon.com and Sears.com marketplaces, in addition to running its stand-alone website. For additional international exposure, DollarDays recently opened a storefront on Alibaba.com, an English-language B2B marketplace with more than 36 million registered users from more than 240 countries and regions.

Marketplaces like Alibaba.com are a cost-effective way to reach more potential customers. That’s because the big ones get a lot of traffic and opening a storefront doesn’t require much technical expertise or investment. Alibaba “is doing all the heavy lifting that we don’t have to get involved in,” Joseph says. That allows DollarDays to remain focused on what it does best. “We are a marketing company that sells product, and [Alibaba] is focused on bringing the world together.”

International orders currently amount to about 15 percent of DollarDays total sales. It’s too early to tell whether the Alibaba storefront, launched in June, will boost that percentage significantly.

But Joseph says he’s positioned for growth, having increased the number of products being sold on the site from 100,000 to 300,000 over the last 18 months. He anticipates eventually attracting buyers from countries such as China, where concern over the quality and safety of domestically manufactured goods is generating interest among consumers for products made in the U.S.A. About six months ago, DollarDays created a specialty store on the website featuring thousands of U.S.-made products.

“Our name has always been Dollar Days International,” Joseph says. “We’ve always envisioned we could sell all around the world. Being with Alibaba is going to speed that up for us.”

This story first appeared on Alizila, Alibaba Group’s e-commerce and corporate news website.

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