According to president, Alain Stambouli, the company (based in Lynwood, CA in Los Angeles) has recorded significant revenue growth over the past six years.
In 2006, Via Trading
took in $10.25 million, in 2007 $14.25 million, and last year $19 million.
"We were on target last year for $21 million," Stambouli
says, "but the last quarter of 2008 was poor for us, as I guess it was for everybody.
says, business has rebounded nicely this year, with Via Trading
on pace for $24 million in revenue and hoping for $26 million.
Not bad, to put it mildly.
But how does Via Trading
keep succeeding while others continue to struggle?
It's no secret, Stambouli
The popularity of the company's monthly onsite auctions of closeout lots, as well as a longstanding commitment to smart customer relations, combine for a formidable one-two punch.
, who with his
brother (and Via Trading CEO), Jacques, started the company in 2002, says that, as is so often the case, the successful formula was a blend of solid business planning and luck.
Stambouli's background was initially in Bulgaria, where his
father ran a company operating over 40 retail stores, and a distribution sales force numbering over 200, before moving on with his
father's mail order business based in Cyprus.
It found him traveling around Eastern Europe (including Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan) and Egypt, helping to oversee a company sending out 1 to 2 million mailings per month of specialized mail order items.
Meanwhile, brother Jacques was studying at Harvard Business School
and formulating a plan to launch a company in the closeout industry.
to join him in California, where they first opened a retail store, and a few months later, added an online operation.
"We were by then learning the salvage goods business," Alain
The auctions usually last about four hours, Stambouli
says, with a break for lunch that's free to registered users.
Typically they move around 100 lots per hour, so the action can be fast and furious.
Via Trading advertises that they offer over 300 palettes, starting at $1, in many categories.
Via Trading has considered adding online auctions to its operations, "but we're happy with what we're doing right now," Stambouli
"It's feasible for us to have online auctions, but it would require significant development in our IT, or sub-contracting out to a third party."
As for what sells, both in the auctions and directly from Via Trading
says that in the salvage/closeout game, "Supply tends to be king.
The other major factor in Via Trading's ongoing success, customer service, has been a focal point from day one, Stambouli
"Selling one time to a customer is a very easy thing," he
"But to sell to the same customer the next time, the time after that, month after month, that's where the skill comes into it.
As such, Via Trading
trains all its staff to take a long term approach to transactions.
"It's very difficult to get rich in one day, or one week or one month," he
"It's something we definitely believe in," Stambouli
"It's a very nice benefit to have for some of our customers, and many times can lead to a sales conversion."
decries what he
sees at too many other websites.
"They want you to register just to ask a question, then you have to email back and forth before you can get access or an answer.
Ours is a much more normal approach.
Add in the facts that no appointments are necessary and that most forms of payment, cash, credit, PayPal, are accepted, and the picture of Via Trading Corp.
as a, "customer first," operation becomes complete.
"Look, there's always room for improvement," Stambouli
"We're human, and we make mistakes.
But when we mess up, we admit it, and where necessary we compensate the customer.
We also offer for sale typically only what's in our warehouse, and usually can provide a tracking number for orders the same day.
The long term approach may take more effort, Stambouli
asserts, but it's the most logical, and as Via Trading's numbers indicate, the most successful approach.
"Everyone always wants to move beyond the basics and move quickly ahead to the next steps," he