AN INTERESTING RETAIL IDEA

A new Web business called Shopster.com is available for people who would like to set up an online store. Shopster charges $30 a month and a $99 Shopstersetup fee. This looks similar to Yahoo, which will let you set up a store for $40 a month plus a $50 setup fee, but there are important differences between the two. (To take a look at Yahoo’s online stores, go to smallbusiness.yahoo.com.)

At Shopster, the site supplies the products and handles the shipping. Whether the merchandise sells depends on your marketing abilities. You can select from an inventory of 700,000 products and list as many as a thousand of them in your online store. You can choose any domain name that’s available for your store name, and anyone browsing the Web for products will see that one, not Shopster’s. There’s a free trial account, so you can test the waters before signing up.

To find out how others have been faring with these online stores, sign up for the free trial and click on the “forums” tab. There are many success stories, but there are also many tales of woe from people who spent months marketing their site and were unable to steer enough traffic there to make it pay. This is much like the experience of traditional new businesses.

We were impressed by the look and quality of some of the sites we looked at. These included one selling just watches, another women’s handbags, a store for MP3 players, a “Hello Kitty” store that sold those collectibles, and an “RPG” store that sold role playing games, like Dungeons and Dragons. You can see that the common thread here is that each of these stores specialized in a single type of product and offered a wide selection in that area.

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