Wilderness Exchange Unlimited – the locally owned gear shop across from REI on Platte Street – launched a six-figure website upgrade this week.
“It’s very difficult for a retailer of our size to make the investment in technology necessary for this,” Wilderness Exchange owner Don Bushey said.
Bushey said that boosting online sales is the best bet for growing the company.
“We agonized over this – we spent over half a year looking at every option out there that’s applicable to our business,” he said. “It took us a year to really pull it off.”
Online sales make up between 25 and 35 percent of Wilderness Exchange’s business. Bushey estimates that with the upgrades, that should increase to 40 percent.
A fresh web presence comes on the heels of a brick-and-mortar investment. The company bought a 4,800-square-foot warehouse at 29th and Wyandot Street in 2012 to handle its inventory and shipping for online sales. The company paid $1 million for the property, a purchase financed by an SBA loan from the Colorado Lending Source.
“We built a warehouse to basically store more inventory and to move all of those functions out of the retail store,” Bushey said.
Wilderness Exchange is best known around Denver for its store near REI. But sales are limited at the 6,500-square-foot space because of its size, Bushey said.
“The ideal would be a great big box you could do retail in, but we don’t have that luxury,” Bushey said. “The location is too key. Location is more important than that kind of retail footprint.”
Bushey said the company’s online operations have already expanded its territory well outside of the Denver area.
“Interestingly enough, we sell a lot more out-of-state than in-state because of sales tax,” he said.
Wilderness Exchange also lists items on Amazon to widen the company’s customer base and get in front of more affluent shoppers. The average Amazon customer makes about $89,000 per year, according to marketing research firm the Shullman Research Center.
The majority of Wilderness Exchange’s sales come from rock climbing equipment, with skiing hard goods coming in second. Soft goods, apparel and hiking and camping equipment round out the rest of the company’s merchandise.