By: James DeHaven (View Staff Writer)
Trend Nation LLC President and CEO Brad Howard recently leased out 33,000 square feet of warehouse space on North Pecos Road.
He expects to use every inch and, with his online e-commerce business growing by 1,100 percent over the past three years, it may not take him long.
“We stock 15,000 products here, and that will reach 22,000 by the end of the year,” Howard said a little more than a week before an Aug. 1 ribbon cutting at his new location.
“We are a true e-commerce online retailer: Think Amazon, eBay, Sears, Buy, Overstock, Newegg.”
Howard’s company, one of the 500 fastest-growing in the nation, has succeeded largely on the strength of its business model, one that sees Trend Nation selling mostly fashion accessories through one of several niche website properties.
Investments in companies that sell everything from purse hooks to solar panels have so far paid off, with sites such as cuffcrazy.com and walletnation.com making Trend Nation the biggest seller of cufflinks and wallets in the country.
The key to running those businesses, Howard said, is inventory management. Most of what he sells is one-size-fits-all, making it easier for the former Ohio State University business logistics major to keep a hawkish eye on shipments headed to and from his North Las Vegas warehouse.
The rest, he said, is up to the computers.
“We’ve spent years developing algorithms and unique software to help use real time sales data online and identify what’s selling,” he said. “Then what we do is either source the item exactly, and disrupt it by arbitraging price, or even better, we’ll see a trend for a certain color or style of product, and we’ll manufacture an alternative overseas at a much better price point.”
The company, founded by Howard and his wife in 2007, shares echoes of origin stories told by better-known online startups, down to early days spent tinkering in Howard’s three-car Summerlin garage.
That’s made comparisons between Trend Nation and other tech-savvy online retailers almost too easy.
“Some people try and compare us to Zappos,” Howard said. “But we do it through seven different niche websites and also through multi-channel distribution.
“So whereas Zappos just sells on their website, we sell everywhere, including our own website.”
Trend Nation’s offices come complete with some of the studied quirkiness more often seen in the “creative spaces” dotted around Silicon Valley — there’s an AstroTurf break room and “Star Wars”-themed conference room — but its CEO comes with a healthy wariness toward tech startup culture.
For example, Howard doesn’t see much of a natural kinship between his massive retailing operation and the scrappy tech startups backed by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project.
“(The Downtown Project) are aware of us — we actually do some stuff with Tech Cocktail — but the problem is we’re a heavy warehouse,” he said.
“And, unlike the Downtown Project people, we actually make money.”
Trend Nation pulled down some $7 million last year, though one could be forgiven for not guessing it. The company still works without the benefit of a sales team and only recently installed its first handful of marketing employees.
North Las Vegas Economic Development Administrator Terri Sheridan, long the only thing close to a Trend Nation promoter, said Howard’s is one of those rare companies that hardly needs a cheerleader.
“I think they have a very unique business model as far as incubating companies under their umbrella,” Sheridan said. “They’ve been quietly very successful. I think they’re just kind of one of those Internet sensations.”
Date Published: August 2nd, 2013