Online Mall Aims to Capture Consumers With Inverse Auctions

Online shopping mall OutletZoo.com is attempting to revolutionize the online shopping market by selling brand name merchandise through its proprietary “automatic price drop” system. The technology, which was developed by JEM Computers, drives prices as low as the market will bear through a virtual inverse of online auctions.

The site gives shoppers a preset schedule of markdowns for each item, which the company says “provides excitement and thrill for consumers, who can opt to buy at today’s price or can take the risk and wait and see if the product is left when the price falls even lower.” Visitors can request an e-mail service to remind them 24 hours before a price is slated to drop, giving the shoppers a chance to decide whether they want to risk the product selling out at the lower price.

Risky Business

According to company CEO Ed Samp, OutletZoo.com hopes that the system will drive more buyers to stop browsing and complete the sale. “Our unique Automatic Price Drop system excites buyers to get their hands on merchandise before someone else snaps it up, therefore allowing sellers to get better prices than with traditional closeout methods,” he adds.

The company is able to offer predictable price drops because its items have been deemed “excess inventory” by manufacturers. As with traditional retail stores, such items are frequently sold at drastically reduced rates if they remain on the shelves longer than the store wants to keep them.

The site organizes products into categories called “Zoos,” with PCZoo and SoftwareZoo online this week. Several other “Zoos” are in the works, including online stores for housewares, toys, home electronics and office supplies.

The PCZoo offers all sorts of computer hardware, from desktop and laptop computers to CD-ROM drives, modems, scanners and printers. Prices start at 15 to 50 percent below suggested retail price for most items.

The rate of price drops vary based on the type of product. For a Compaq Presario computer hitting the shelves Tuesday, the price was slated to drop 10 percent for each seven-day period the computer is still in stock.

Real Zoo Review

As part of its launch, OutletZoo will give away a trip to either the San Diego Zoo or the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoological Park in Washington. D.C. The company will send two adults and two children for two days, providing hotel accommodations, transportation, zoo admission and spending money. The contest runs from Sept. 21st through Oct. 21st. Visitors do not have to make a purchase to enter, but their entry will automatically place them on OutletZoo.com’s e-mail distribution list for sale notices and other messages. The site also provides links to the San Diego and National zoos’ Internet sites.

OutletZoo.com is a private company. It was founded in April and is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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