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May 1, 2012
by Chris Heine
The story behind Western Express, the leading wholesale company for cowboy hats, western shirts, belt buckles, and other buckaroo-styled clothing items, starts with a touch of show business. There is a scene in the 1980 box office hit, Urban Cowboy, where actor Debra Winger's character, Sissy, asks Bud, played by John Travolta, a simple question: "Are you a real cowboy?" His answer would end up defining a new product niche, while helping inspire a great wholesale company in Western Express. "Well, that depends on what you think a real cowboy is," Bud replied.
The movie, which grossed $53 million in sales, told America that being a cowboy was a state of mind. You do not have to be from Wyoming or Montana; you can be from Miami, Buffalo, Chicago, or San Diego. And ever since Urban Cowboy debuted three decades ago, explained Dan Mottsman, CEO of Western Express, western-themed products have consistently been go-to sales generators for mom and pop retailers nationwide. "We've developed this niche business that has retained its popularity for a really long time," he said.
After the movie made its mark, Mottsman's parents, Western Express founders Richard and Evelyn Mottsman, identified a marketplace void they could fill, and launched a wholesale business that would become the envy of the industry. In the 1990s they began handing over the reins to their son Dan, and their daughter Paula Brant, who have guided the business through the Internet era to the tune of ten percent year-over-year sales growth. Dan Mottsman attributes the consistent revenue spurts to advertising via proven marketing channels such as Google AdWords, Web Wholesaler magazine, email, and direct mail.
According to the CEO, Western Express is also building a presence on Facebook and Twitter. "It started out as mostly catalog and trade show sales," he explained, while sitting at his company's headquarters in Bridgeville, PA. "The biggest growth parts of the marketing have been the Internet, email, and social media. Our website, www.wexpress.com is our greatest sales tool."
Best Products and Prices
Dan and Paula constantly upgrade www.wexpress.com, giving retailers an optimal navigation experience and allowing them to quickly discover the best products at the best prices. For instance, the homepage has been enhanced to include a Best Seller feature, while now also providing the ability to sort products by price and/or brand name. If customers add items to their shopping carts but do not have the time to check out, Western Express will send an email notification to enable buyers to finish the process at their convenience later on. Retailers increasingly use email to reach out to Western Express with questions about products and order requests.
"Overall, email has become much more prominent in recent years," Mottsman said. "Our email lists have grown about 30 percent in the last year, and we get emails all day long from customers. But at the same time, a lot of customers appreciate a more personal touch. We have quite a few small stores that prefer to contact us by phone, and we are more than happy to talk with them."
Western Express customers are offered a low minimum order of only $125. Western stores, costume shops, flea market sellers, and other types of retailers are benefiting from excellent profit margins, Mottsman said. Cowboy hats are available in the following styles: faux ($6 per wholesale unit); straw ($6); and premium wool ($20). Belt buckles wholesale at $10 per unit, while the snazziest western shirts found anywhere cost just $20 apiece. Bandanas, boot accessories, bolo ties, blankets/ponchos, and patriotic-themed items are just a few of the many products available at WesternExpressInc.com.
"Our website is easy to use, and it's driven to be an ecommerce tool for our customers," Mottsman says. "We are constantly updating our products to accurately show the latest items and prices."
Western Express has partnered with Advanced E-Media to help improve the wholesaler's website, and optimize search engine rankings to deliver the greatest traffic. Mottsman knows that companies are only as strong as their products and team members. Western Express constantly communicates with their factories to ensure that cowboy hats, western shirts, belt buckles, and other wares are of the highest quality. "We get feedback from customers about our products," says Mottsman, "and we monitor our production."
Western Express operates from a 20,000-square-foot warehouse ten miles southwest of Pittsburgh, located just off Interstate 79. In addition to great products and prices, fantastic people separate this company from the competition. To utilize a line from the movie that sparked their business, the folks at Western Express make everyone feel like real cowboys.
"Four of our employees have been with us for 19 years, and several others have been with us for over ten," Mottsman points out. "We are family-run, so it's a very friendly atmosphere here. I think it's reflected in how our employees are dedicated to our customers and their individual needs."
For more information:
Western Express Inc.
300 Villani Drive
Bridgeville, PA 15017
Toll Free: 800-245-1380
Topic: Company Profiles
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