Closing a retail business to grow a business online

The NY Times writes a great story of a business owner who closed down his retail business to expand online AFTER three years of riding the Internet to steadily climbing sales, Eric Truran decided to use the Web to move his small manufacturing business, CourierWare, in another direction. He wanted it to shrink.
Like most small-business owners, Mr. Truran first viewed the World Wide Web as an opportunity to grow. But as time went by, he came to see it as the opposite – a way to close up his Cambridge, Mass., retail store, move the business to his home in this Vermont village and accomplish his real goal: spending time on the things he wanted to do rather than running CourierWare.
“The Web part of the business was growing,” said Mr. Truran, whose company is known for its high-quality, durable messenger bags. “It was the only part of the business that was truly growing.” CourierWare, which also stopped publishing its mail- order catalog in 2001, now takes only phone or online orders.
As his Internet choices show, Mr. Truran is not like most small-business owners. After 15 years of growth, CourierWare’s retail business was stagnant, and corporate sales were starting to slip. The company’s sales peaked around $500,000 in 2000.
He saw two options – expand the business or reduce it. Fearing an economic downturn and unhappy at having to spend 80 to 90 hours a week working, Mr. Truran chose to downsize. He closed CourierWare’s Harvard Square store, laid off his eight employees and focused exclusively on the Internet.
“My whole business philosophy is, enough is enough,” he said. “Anything more than that and you just work all the time.”
Mr. Truran now works part time, probably 15 or 20 hours a week. He is also selling fewer bags – sales are about $100,000 a year now – and earning about $50,000, about half of what he made in the mid-1990’s.