Bet your bottom barter.
Forest Hills entrepreneur Elan Eliav is banking on the idea that people love to quibble for the best deal.
He’s so confident in the notion, in fact, that he made it the premise of a new online business, UHaggled.com, and says he’s willing to go bankrupt to see the fledgling enterprise through.
“Til death do us part!” the 37-year-old entrepreneur said during a recent visit to his offices in Long Island City. “That’s how much I believe in this.”
He uses the site to purvey a wide array of products — from watches to sleep masks and electronics — and prior to each purchase the buyer haggles the seller to get the lowest possible price.
The savvy shopper also gets free shipping, 5% cash back and a gift with every purchase, even if that means UHaggled forfeits nearly all of its profit.
“We have to remain competitive,”
If his business model sounds too good to be true, that’s because for now, it is. Eliav says he is subsidizing his new site with money from his primary business, E&A Worldwide Traders Inc., which buys and sells brand-name closeouts.
Eliave has poured more than $200,000 from that business into UHaggled.com, to cover his payroll, rent and inventory costs.
But Eliav — who works alongside his wife, Jana — isn’t worried. “No one believed in Amazon when it first came out,” he said. “And look where they are now.”
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BETH STEBNER/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The warehouse in Long Island City where UHaggled.com. is located. The business lets shoppers haggle for various items, from toys to electronics and everything in between.
The company’s 10 full-time employees work tucked away behind hundreds of haphazardly stacked boxes holding everything from Barbie toothbrushes to Jo Malone perfume. Each worker manages his or her own accounts, helping shoppers obtain their bottom-line price.
For instance, Eliav purchased crates of Powermat wireless chargers after Duracell purchased the company for $3 wholesale. The mat, which retails for $59.99 on other sites, can be purchased on UHaggled.com for as low as $9.99.
“You will get a price that makes you happy,” said Eliav said, who launched UHaggled.com in 2011, after flexing his entrepreneurial muscles in several other businesses, including a stint as discount casket salesman in Astoria.
Eliav says he doesn’t have a five-year plan, save to approach investors when the time is right. “I believe I can expand the business,” he said, estimating he would need $1 million to $5 million to do so.
His idea may have legs: Haggling for deals is catching on nationally, too. Even big-name retail giants like Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Kohl’s and Lowe’s will bump down their prices as long as the customer asks.
Other local competitors include New York and Los Angeles-based Greentoe.com, which operates on roughly the same business model.
The big question is whether UHaggled has enough traction and exposure to make a real impact. David Rudofsky, the Wharton-educated founder and president of New York-based consulting firm Rodofsky Associates, said the concept of price discovery is unique and noted it worked well in its earlier iterations, including priceline.com.
“Consumer empowerment is a fun concept,” he said.
What Eliav needs, though, is more traffic, and Rudofsky says he may need to focus its product offerings.
“It’s less clear what UHaggled stands for in terms of categories,”
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