Upstarts: WhiskeyMilitia.com

I recently received a press release with some pretty mind blowing numbers for sales on WhiskeyMilitia.com. If you haven’t heard about it, you aren’t alone, but its sales and devoted base of shoppers are growing exponentially as word gets out about its “One-Deal-at-a-Time” (ODAT) model and crazy deals.

At this time I’d like to throw out a few stats to quantify the sales and deals of which I speak:
• On December 24, 2007 they sold one Nixon The Kink Watch every 4.44 seconds
• On March 12, 2008 sales of Burton Customs grossed $87,836 in 200 minutes
• On April 4, 2008 they sold one Volcom Men’s Coyote shirt every 9.71 seconds until all 529 were gone, grossing $7,401.
• On April 8, 2008 they sold 50 Burton Vapor Snowboards for $419.99, down from $999.95.

Now that I’ve got your attention, here’s the model behind WhiskeyMilitia and ODAT sales. The concept is pretty simple. As ODAT implies, Whiskey’s website pushes one product at a time at more than 60% off until it’s gone. WhiskeyMilitia’s parent company, Backcountry.com, the largest online retailer of outdoor equipment, has designated buyers for WhiskeyMilitia who focus solely on purchasing skate, snow, and surf goods, lifestyle apparel, and accessories for the site and other Backcountry ODAT sites that focus on different market segments.

“ODAT is not an overstock thing,” says WhiskeyMililtia’s PR Rep Marit Fischer of Base Camp Communications. “They sell only top-line products, which are programmed to change frequently so there’s very limited exposure. The aggressive pricing gets people to pay attention, and actually gets customers to experience brands that they otherwise may not have ever tried. It’s great marketing for the brands.”

It’s also very effective for Backcountry.com’s core sites, which have higher margins. “Backcountry has found that WhiskeyMilitia drives traffic back to Dogfunk (the company’s boardsports store) so they actually promote sales for the company overall,” continues Fischer.

WhiskeyMilitia was launched in April, 2007 and went from napkin sketch to operational in less than a month, and has seen solid growth ever since. “On day one we had 9 unique visitors, on day two we had 12, on day three we had 2,180, on day four we had almost 4,000,” says Backcountry’s ODAT Brand Manager Luke Cudney. “You get the idea. Traffic and sales growth have been insane ever since with no signs of slowing down. We currently get about 60,000-70,000 unique visitors to the site every day.”

Given the model, margins are very thin on these products, but the traffic and related benefits are huge for both Backcountry and manufacturers. “We work with some vendors pre-season, planning buys in advance so they can raise their minimum production runs, get a better price, and then hold that surplus inventory for us until it’s off-season,” says Cudney. “We take a lot of the risk out of pre-season forecasting for vendors, because now they have a place to unload that extra inventory quickly without losing money or damaging brand integrity. We’re not a closeout shop in the traditional sense. When we move product it goes to the right customer and it’s a blip on the radar. It’s not gathering dust on the shelves of a clearance shop, watering down the market, or killing the vendors’ brands by getting sold to some kooks at TJ MAXX.”


Backcountry.com ODAT brand manager Luke Cudney.

Whiskey focuses on up-to-date, solid product to keep up its image and keep people coming back like crack fiends. “Our buyers are out there securing the best proddy,” says Cudney. “They don’t buy for any other sites and they know the core market. If the product is whack and not a fit for the market, we won’t bother bringing it in.”
Transworld Business attempted to contact several manufacturers that work with WhiskeyMilitia but none of them had any comment about the site.

The business model for Backcountry’s ODAT sites is actually heavily based on WOOT!, an online emporium that sells one heavily discounted item at a time. “Before we launched these two sites, we didn’t see anything else, besides Woot!, like them out there,” says Cudney. However, since the launch of Backountry’s ODAT sites, competition from retailers like Summit Sports, Inc. through TheDailySteal.com and Sierra Trading Post has been growing. “We’re now seeing a lot of competitors cropping up trying to bite the biz–which we take as a huge compliment.”

Here’s the remainder of the numbers WhiskeyMilita’s press release contained:

Fastest-selling Units
• Jan. 4, 2008 – Burton P1 Snowboard Binding – sold one unit every 7.53 seconds (154 units sold, $12,010 in gross sales)
• Apr. 4, 2008 – Volcom Men’s Coyote Short-Sleeve Polo Shirt – sold one unit every 9.71 seconds (529 units sold, $7,401 in gross sales)

Biggest Discount, by Percentage
• May 4, 2007 – Nixon Ticket Watch – 83% off retail (sold 313 units, customer savings of $52,093)
• Mar. 6, 2008 – Gravis Arrow Duffel Bag – 80% off retail (sold 186 units, customer savings of $11,897)

Biggest Discount, By Dollar Amount
• Dec. 3, 2007 – Burton Lancaster Down Jacket – price: $246.83, down from $882, a savings of $635 (sold 23 units, customer savings of $14,609)
• Dec.18, 2007 – Surftech Yater Hot Dog Surfboard – 7 ft. 2 in. – price: $419.99, down from $747, a savings of $327 (sold 6 units, customer savings of $1,962)

Units that Generated the Most Money
• Jan. 8, 2008 – 686 Smarty Uzi Snowboard Jacket – Men’s – generated $24,969 in gross sales in 156 minutes
• Dec. 17, 2007 – Technine Split Snowboard with MFM Combo Binding Package – generated $19,799 in gross sales in 140 minutes

To check out the site go to whiskeymilitia.com