If you’ve ever typed domain names directly into your browser bar instead of looking for them through search engines you’ll be aware that even today, more or less twenty years after the commercial internet really began to take off in earnest, plenty of high quality dot com domain names are still being pointed at parked or “For Sale” pages or are not resolving to any website at all. In a sense, this is the equivalent of waiting for the “Main Street” of all our major cities to take shape. The cranes are out but many of the sites are still derelict and waiting to be developed. The retail golf business is no different, being dominated still by brand names such as Golfsmith, The Golf Warehouse and Golf Galaxy. But there are signs that some entrepreneurs are thinking along different lines and starting to build on the most valuable “land” of all, the major direct navigation domain names.
In a previous post I mentioned that the domain name GolfBags.com is now a fully functioning e-commerce site owned by an entrepreneur named Lou Doctor. It turns out that this gentleman also operates e-commerce sites on several other high-profile domain names, including Darts.com, Billiards.com, PoolCues.com, PoolTables.com, CycloCross.com and BicycleTires.com.
The icing on the cake as far as I am concerned is his website GolfClubs.com. As I understand it, the owner of the domain name originally valued it at seven figures even though he didn’t have a website built on it. Lou Doctor came to an agreement to lease the name for five years with an option to buy it at the end of the fifth year for the owner’s original asking price. He has now built an e-commerce site on it so in effect he is making payments to the owner as though he was renting a store from him and has the opportunity to earn enough money through the site to be able to afford to buy the name later on.
How Lou Doctor got involved in acquiring premium domain names and building e-commerce sites on them is a remarkable story. It literally started as a garage operation and he can thank his two sons for launching him on his way. The story begins about 10 years ago when Lou and his friends, all avid cyclists, started ordering bike tyres from the UK because they were cheaper than in the US. One particular order of tyres that they had paid $300 for came in the wrong colour, so rather than pay to ship them back to the UK and have them replaced, Lou told his 12-year old son Nate to try to sell them on eBay and that anything he got over $300 would be his to keep. Nate got $350 for them and so, seeing there was money to be made, asked his dad to order more tyres for him next time so he could continue to sell them on eBay. After about a month, Lou realised his two kids were operating a budding small business from the parking space in the garage, and that’s when he began to realise the potential of online retailing. Long story short, by the end of the first year, they had shipped a million dollars’ worth of tyres!
Today, Lou Doctor‘s e-commerce businesses have 30 employees and they operate out of a series of warehouses and bricks-and-mortar stores in Portland, Oregon. The bike business employs 20 people and the billiards, darts and golf businesses employ about 10 people. Overall, they expect to do about $15 million in combined sales next year and $20-$25 million the following year. Traffic to the websites comes from pay-per-click advertising, repeat customers, and direct navigation (people typing the domain names in their browsers). The beauty of the domain names is that they are the logical names to type and very simple to remember.
Golf club retailing is a multibillion dollar business, and now the doors of the main keyword dot com domain name, GolfClubs.com, are open for business. Whether they will eventually be bought out by one of their competitors or become the biggest player of all in the golf club retailing industry remains to be seen, but it all started with a 12-year old boy and a $50 profit on a set of bicycle tyres. Strange but true!