Vegas Inc.

By: Ed Komenda

You wouldn’t think much happens at this nondescript industrial park in North Las Vegas. But it’s here, at the headquarters of online accessory-dealer Trend Nation, that more than 60 employees have been hustling to prepare for the busiest time of the shopping season: the week before Christmas.

Trend Nation is Las Vegas’ own e-commerce site, selling everything from wallets to bags to goblets decorated with plastic jewels. So far this year, the company has generated more than $19 million in revenue.

In the company’s 33,000-square-foot warehouse, workers start at 7 a.m. and sift through more than 500,000 items stuffed in boxes and stacked on towering metal shelves.

On Monday more than 4,500 items entered their order queue, demanding long hours and focus from staffers armed with box cutters and product scanners.

That made for a busy Tuesday morning. The air smelled of cardboard, plastic and adhesive packing tape. Though the temperature in this concrete building hovers around 60 degrees, employees work in T-shirts.

“I’d usually be wearing shorts,” said Jason Palmberg, Trend Nation’s director of operations. Because the job demands so much movement, backroom workers don’t often need winter gear until January and February.

Trend Nation’s inventory focuses on fashion and accessories. Branching off the main website are seven other vertical businesses, including: CuffCrazy.com (cufflinks and wallets), Crystal Cases (plastic fashion bling), Wallet Nation, Health-In-Style (lifestyle tips), and Baglane (purses and men’s bags).

It might not be Amazon.com or local darling Zappos.com, but since Trend Nation moved to Las Vegas from Ohio in 2009, the company has grown from three employees to more than 60. They chose Southern Nevada because of its easy tax structure and the number of trade shows that move through town.

How the company makes its money sounds simple, according to Bradley Howard, Trend Nation’s CEO: “Buy low, sell high,” he said.

When it started, the company bought exclusively from China and sold products under a single umbrella — TrendNation.com. But competition from sites like Amazon forced them to come up with creative ways to compete. One way was creating new brands altogether.

Howard also points to another weapon: data.

The company’s buyers use metrics to figure out what products are “trending” in the marketplace and then buy them up to sell quickly on the sites.

One item that recently fit that bill was a blanket based on Disney’s smash hit “Frozen.” The item sold out within days of hitting the market.

“We’re 80 percent data and 20 percent finesse,” Howard said. “Most companies are 20 percent data and 80 percent finesse.”

Aside from its business practices, Trend Nation also embraces an attitude emblematic of the laid-back startup mentality.

Their offices include “Star Wars”- and superhero-themed rooms. Stuck to the back wall of the Star Wars room is a black scroll printed with the movie’s opening creed, the one that starts, “In a galaxy far, far away …” On another wall, across from an R2-D2 cooler and life-size Yoda statue, hangs an area rug made to look like a swatch of Chewbacca’s fur.

The superhero room features life-size stickers of comic book stars like Batman, Wonder Woman, Iron Man and Spiderman. Stretched across one wall is an onamonapia: BOOM.

Then there are the video games and pinball machines. Employees can either relax on a big couch or unwind with some skee ball or a few rounds of the Pro Challenge Putt game.

“Culture is very important here,” Howard said. “We hire and fire based on core values.”

On Cyber Monday — the Monday after Black Friday famous for digital deals — Trend Nation sold more than $250,000 in merchandise. It was an important milestone for the company; that number represents a 94 percent increase from the last Cyber Monday.

At the beginning of the year, company officials even offered their employees an incentive to keep those numbers moving upward: an all expense paid trip to Disneyland.

Take a walk through the orange chevron-patterned offices and you’ll find randomly stamped stickers of Mickey Mouse waving “hello.”

If the team generates $20 million in revenue by the end of the fiscal year, they’ll get the trip.

In the meantime, the company plans to hire more people, roll out new brands and, in the process, continue expanding Las Vegas’ online retail scene.

 

Date Published: December 17th, 2014