Hammett grows online sales through multiple venues

Hammett grows online sales through multiple venues

J. L. Hammett Co., the oldest and largest independent school supplier in the nation, entered online e-commerce five years ago and has been quietly refining its Internet strategies. Initially, Hammett offered modem to modem online buying. Two years ago they switched to a web-based system identified as eZone on the www.Hammett.com site and powered by technology from Ironside Technologies Inc. (www.ironside.net). EZone is designed for institutional buying; in addition to giving access to the catalog, it provides procurement tools and services such as allowing business managers to see orders in the system, managing purchase orders, and managing various users’ authorizations for purchases. eZon continues to evolve with increased profiling for personalization and plans for adding features that make it simpler and faster to use.

Richmond Y. Holden, Jr., president of J. L. Hammett, expects 40% of his business to come from eZone within the next two years. That anticipated growth in online activity does not include Hammett’s other strategies for online penetration, primarily agreements with school procurement sites such as Epylon and alliances which create online stores for other web sites. Holden declined ISEM’s request for an estimate of overall growth over the next two years, but he would say that the company is prepared for substantial growth with 550,000 square feet of warehouse space.

Hammett also sells to preschool and K-12 schools through catalogs and a sales force of 60 to 70 representatives. In addition to its 808 page general catalog, the company creates a number of sub-catalogs for needs such as early childhood, furniture, industrial supplies and arts. Plans for new catalogs are on the drawing board.

Additionally, 62 retail locations known as Hammett Learning World focus on products for infants through fifth grade. Their customers are teachers spending their own money and parents wanting what Holden calls “industrial strength learning products.” The company began in 1863 creating its own products and continued to rule paper, mix ink and manufacture other products until about 15 years ago. At that time they focused the business entirely on distribution.

E-commerce Partnerships

The company’s online activities are expanding rapidly. Believing that school officials and teachers will want to learn to use only one, or maybe two, procurement systems, Holden is working to position Hammett products on every desktop possible. Hammett was Epylon’s flagship and first customer. Holden says that Hammett also has a relationship with eschool mall, and talks with Simplexis may well lead to an agreement.

Hammett is working with a number of sites to host co-branded, online stores “powered by Hammett.com”. In each case, the companies involved select merchandise appropriate to their customers, and Hammett is responsible for fulfillment and for managing the site. This summer, Hammett will launch co-branded stores with Classroom Connect and TIME for Kids. Hammett also distributes Classroom Connect products. Hammett’s agreement with TIME for Kids also calls for various cross promotions through print materials. The company is also working on existing sites for Skoodles, Beansprout Networks and Discovery.com.

In July, Discovery.com relaunched the store on their Teacher Channel, and Hammett hosts that co-branded site. Hammett will also power Discovery’s Family Learning Store, scheduled for launch in late summer or early fall. This, however, will not be a co-branded site.

Holden says the company will not be working to extend its brand name into the consumer space or to compete with consumer retailers. The www.hammett.com site does have an online extension of Hammett Learning World with a shopping basket that can be used by parents, individual teachers or other consumers. It is, says Holden, intended primarily as service to existing customers at the retail stores, with perhaps expanded use through word of mouth. Any expansion of sales to consumers via the web will come through back-end agreements with companies like Discovery.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Nelson B. Heller & Associates

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group