Wide Open Spaces lets hunters and fishermen get their ecommerce on

By Richard Nieva , written on March 5, 2013

From The News Desk

Sites like Gilt and One Kings Lane have been mainstays of ecommerce 2.0, but there are some things you can’t get on those sites.

Namely: fishing line or a good set of hunting knives.

In comes Austin-based Wide Open Spaces to snap up that demographic. The membership-required site usually deals in flash sales, offering hunting and fishing gear for as high as 80 percent off, though most items are discounted by 50 to 60 percent.  Today, Wide Open Spaces announced the full launch of Openseason, a more traditional retail store within the site that sells products without the timed deals. Items in this section go for about 40 to 50 percent less than in other retailers.

Since the beta launch six weeks ago, the Openseason section has come to bring in 54 percent of all revenue on the site, the company told PandoDaily. The site can offer such prices by dealing with emerging brands, and by offering to take overstocked items off a retailer’s hands instead of leaving them to go un-purchased. Wide Open Spaces has 325 retail partners, including Reaction Strike and Coleman. Investors include Houston, Texas-based Mercury Fund, Omaha, Nebraska-based Dundee Venture Capital, and Ann Arbor, Michigan-based RPM Ventures.

The ethos of the site is as rugged as its inventory. Upon first visit, a user is welcomed by a cow and typeface that makes me want to eat beef jerky.

Cofounder and CEO Denis O’Dwyer says there are over 37 million people who hunt and fish in the United States, with no good online distributor to serve them. He says the group is highly passionate, and is not as far behind on technology as it used to be. “They are catching up on broadband. They own smartphones now,” he says.

So will hunters and fishermen be consistent online buyers? O’Dwyer insists are, citing how successful online stores by retailers like Bass Pro Shops have been. He also points out that the demographic engages closely with personal technology, mentioning how popular hunting and fishing apps are in the sports section of the iOS App Store. Indeed, hunting apps bookend the top 10 free sports apps, with Duck Commander on top (though it's only free for this month, which could partly be responsible for it's ranking).

O’Dwyer started the site after moving to Austin and not being able to find a good fishing or hunting community. Before that, he worked at different Internet companies, including serving as the vice president of local sales at Yelp, and felt like a “yankee” when he tried to join different outdoor circles. He went on the Internet to find that all of the hunting and fishing online communities looked like they were from 1998, he said. So he wanted to start a modern site geared toward helping hunters and fishermen. “We have fanboys too,” says O’Dwyer. “But instead of a new gadget, it’s the new Abu Garcia reel.”

[Image courtesy: Phillip Pessar]