Kiwiana a money-spinner for net entrepreneur

An Auckland company says it is using the internet to sell New Zealand products overseas for an average 400% mark-up.

An Auckland company says it is using the internet to sell New Zealand products overseas for an average 400% mark-up. Pacific Collection claims it is enjoying so much success it needs a “synergistic partner” to help it grow faster. The business was launched in February 2000 by University of Auckland finance student Eugene Tablis, who says he turned down a job with a leading law firm to continue his business. Tablis initially simply wanted a part-time income while studying but now employs four full-time staff and several part-timers. He began by investing a few thousand dollars of his own money in a website created using open-source php on a MySQL database. Tablis started selling kiwiana while at university, but now claims a product range of 30,000 goods from five New Zealand suppliers, and plans to expand his product range to 100,000 items. The site sells goods including "artifacts", furnishings, gifts, books, CDs, models, collectables, jewellery and toys. This often means goods made overseas, such as certain Frank Sinatra records not available in the US, where 96% of Pacific Collection’s goods go to. Goods sold include clothes and sheepskins, toys and models, music and videos, books, arts and crafts. Tablis says big margins are possible because the goods he sells are not available overseas so are not price-sensitive, and New Zealand prices are comparatively low. An uncirculated New Zealand $10 note, for instance, sells on the site for $US14.80. The business, Tablis says, has always been “considerably profitable”, with turnover increasing an average 12% a month, equivalent to $1 million a year. It claims 14,500 customers, 100,000 “unique visits” to the website each month and links to 3000 third-party websites. Potential partners for the business could include bricks-and-mortar retailers wanting a ready-made online operation, Kiwi firms wanting to export, or other Kiwi firms seeking marketing help. He says he has already had talks with several local firms, but nothing has come of them to date.

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