Friday, June 27, 2008

Rock Bottom Golf - A Top 500 Online Retailer

I've always admired the Rath family; founders of Rock Bottom Golf. They learned early on, they couldn't grow their business substantially on eBay, so they branched out and created their own website.

Today Rock Bottom Golf is ranked #308 in Internet Retailers top 500 Retail Websites with $21.7 million in 2007 sales -- that is quite an accomplishment.

Their website gets over 270,000 unique visitors per month and the amazing thing for me is ... its a Yahoo Storefront.

Now, if I remember correctly, they began their business on eBay in 2002 and added the website in 2004 - $0 to $21.7 million in 5 years is pretty impressive. They are still selling on eBay, but it makes up only a small percentage of their total business ... maybe 15%, roughly the same sales they did on eBay back in 2004.

As I look back at it, I knew in 2004 that I needed to ween myself off of eBay, but I didn't complete my website until January of 2005, after spending $80,000 in development. I created my own shopping cart that integrated with my back-end, when in hindsight, I could have just created my website on Yahoo for under $20K in a quarter of the time and still had $60K for advertising.

Rock Bottom Golf made the correct decision to grow their business off of eBay, my delay in following their same path cost me my business. Glacier Bay did $4.6 million in sales in 2004 -- 100% coming from eBay. The following year, 2005, GB did $4.1 million in sales with $300K coming from the website and another 100K coming from Amazon, but by the end of 2005 I was seriously in debt and eBay was break-even at best. I had few resources left to advertise the website and I was too late to the game to make Amazon a big part of my business, so I made the decision in Dec of 2005 to shut the business down.

Based on conversations I am having with many of you, the Glacier Bay story has become a common story for many eBay sellers. Please do not wait until there is little hope left to make the change in your business. This goes for small sellers as well as large sellers -- follow the Rock Bottom Golf plan rather than the Glacier Bay DVD plan.

Just my 12%


Anonymous said...

Good for them! I cannot BELIEVE their site is a Yahoo Storefront, the design is beautiful and has great style. I wonder who did their site design, I'd like to give them some business.

I keep reading here and on TameBay that more and more businesses are closing up shop.

Now is definitely the time to ween yourself off the eBay teat.

Ron said...

I have always admired Rockbottomgolf and I have learned alot by their listings as well. I spent 6 months back in 2005 working with one of their competitors in the golf biz get their sales up on eBay (which we accomplished). Hats off to everyone at Rockbottomgolf! I think I am now off to do 9 holes!

Anonymous said...

All i can say about that and going your own ways is: "HALALUYA!!"


Henrietta said...

With hindsight we all have 20 - 20 vision. I think it is extremely generous of you to share the lessons you have learned.

Thank you

Randy Smythe said...


Thanks, I certainly don't want anyone else to go through what I did. It wasn't fun.

David said...

Randy if you don't mind me asking.

When GlacierbayDVD was going strong, were you an employee of GlacierBayDVD getting a big sallery or was it one of those deals where your salary was Dependant on how your business was doing?

Also one other question. Is it true that you got to "dine with eBay executives"?

Because you were one of the top sellers did people like Meg Whitman take you out to dinner and try to build a relationship with you

Randy Smythe said...

David, I owned Glacier Bay. When it was going good I was doing very well thank you, when it was going bad I took it in the shorts.

Yes, I dined with the execs, actually dined with Meg. Jeff Jordan (I wish he was running the company now) called me when we crossed the 100K feedback level but nobody called when we reached 200K and nobody even acknowledged us when we passed Jay and Marie during the Summer of 2005 to be #1 in feedback.

Tony P. said...


Do you play the "coulda, shoulda, woulda" game over GB's demise? If you still beat yourself up over it, I'd like to offer a little something...

If you'd managed to limp into 2006, you might have fallen for the same trap many other store seller fell into.

Ebay first came with SIS, then removed it and held up Express as the shining light. Many (MANY!) store sellers stocked up on inventory in anticipation of sales just like with SIS. But it didn't happen.

That's when they were hit with the Clutter Statement and "billy math" of a 6% rate hike(which worked out to be more like an additional 6% of Take Rate, not a percentage of).

You - GB - would have most likely been even more in debt at that point, with an even bigger deficit per month.

So, it coulda, shoulda, woulda been worse.

JMO :-)

Randy Smythe said...

Tony, I don't play that game regarding eBay, I know I made the right decision in regards to eBay. I look back and wish I had acted sooner to diversify. I only blog about it to help sellers in the same position.

I've never regretted shutting down. It was the right decision.

Suzanne Wells - The eBay Coach said...

Hi, Randy. I met the folks from RBG at eBay Live in Boston last year. Super people and very helpful in answering a "little guy's" questions. RBG is a huge operation. Glad to see they are doing so well in their non-eBay ventures. If I remember correctly, eBay was only a small part of their operation.

Anonymous said...

Imagine the poor souls who were already established, but who thought listing on ebay would be 'easier.' Ironically these are the ones ebay wants now but by taking that path they got NUKED.

I know firsthand. I've cleaned out a few such warehouses, for around 1% of their cost at bankruptcy. You can make quite a living flea'ing off the contents of dead ebay 'businesses'.

ecommerce said...

This is quite an inspirational story for the average person who has hopes of being an online retailer, in whatever form. It's true that these days require some kind of storefront aside from eBay for most markets...