One way the company embraces its soulful side is by offering artisans and suppliers in developing regions across the globe a platform within the site to access potential customers outside of their immediate area. Overstock.com’s Worldstock Fair Trade division, established in 2001, offers handcrafted items including furniture, home décor and jewelry from more than 9,000 artisans in small villages from more than 50 countries. As part of the program, the online retailer returns a large percentage of each item’s sale price directly to the artisans or suppliers to help them reinvest in the economic sustainability of these emerging regions. A portion of the profits from Worldstock are donated to charities supporting international humanitarian efforts by bringing schools, clinics, drinking water and sustainable cottage industries to the communities it sources from. More than $115 million has been paid out in this way since the Worldstock program was founded.
“When you buy handmade crafts from Worldstock, you do much more than just shop for unique gifts, you help people in these countries support their families, gain dignity and develop their villages while maintaining their ancient cultural traditions,” Overstock.com CEO Patrick M. Byrne said in a statement. “Overstock is proud to pay artisans or their suppliers double the customary amount returned by other importers. Overstock is not looking to make any profit from these sales and any profits we have made we have donated to charity.”
Overstock.com also supports businesses and vendors closer to home with the company’s Main Street Revolution initiative. This program offers small and minority-owned businesses that lack national exposure the opportunity to offer their products on the shopping site in order to reach a broader audience. Additionally, in a move aimed at increasing access to healthy food across the United States, the company has recently launched an onsite Farmers Market that uses existing local delivery programs to increase the domestic availability of responsibly-produced food and goods from small farmers, Community Supported Agriculture groups and Co-ops local to the customer.
Making a Difference
Also in 2014, Overstock.com extended its corporate responsibility efforts to the animal kingdom through the launch of an onsite pet adoption service.
“We realized that the same world-class technology we have built to enable shoppers to sort through millions of products on our site to find just the right item is technology that could also be used to enable pet lovers to sort through hundreds of thousands of animals in adoption shelters to find just the right pet for their family,” Byrne said. “We are an animal-friendly firm and are grateful for the opportunity to use our technology and resources to make a difference in the lives of so many animals and people.”
Users of the pet adoption service can access real-time updates of adoptable animals in thousands of shelters nationwide. Searches can be made for particular animal types and breeds as well as attributes such as gender, age and disposition. Once a user finds a pet, Overstock.com connects them with a local shelter to complete the process. More than 32,000 connections have been made in nine months. The free service is available to shelters offering rescue animals.
Overstock.com entered into three other relationships last year that have helped it and its partners grow their capabilities and market share.
Last May, the company unveiled a major business initiative with the launch of Supplier Oasis Fulfillment Services Inc., a subsidiary that provides multichannel fulfillment services as well as access to warehouse space in Utah and Pennsylvania to suppliers enrolled in the program.
“The launch of Supplier Oasis Fulfillment Services reflects our dedication to stripping costs from the supply chain,” Byrne says. “Our warehouses, expertise, reporting and dedication to cost-savings are now available to sellers, suppliers and partners. All of those businesses can optimize their operations across all sales channels.”
“Supplier Oasis offers a single integration point through which partners can manage their products, inventory and sales channels, while tapping into a world-class distribution network,” Byrne adds. “These benefits translate into a substantial advantage in this highly competitive marketplace.”
While solving the supply chain conundrum is crucial to any successful retailer, Overstock has also innovated on the technology side of the company this past year. In early 2014, the company partnered with San Francisco-based Coinbase.com to process payments and handle the conversion of Bitcoin into U.S. dollars, helping Overstock.com lead by example in the worldwide push for acceptance of Bitcoin as a form of payment.
“Digital currency will be an important part of the future and Overstock is excited to be the first major online shopping retailer to accept it,” Byrne said in a statement. “Bitcoin is well suited for online transactions. It has no transaction fees and works well for international customers. Providing this convenience for the Bitcoin customer is the smart thing to do.”
Finally, this past November, the company announced the launch of Kid Zone, a partnership with PBS KIDS, a leading educational media brand. The shop includes thousands of educational children’s products, with a portion of proceeds from each sale going to support PBS.
“Overstock believes in a bright future for all children, and to support our commitment to their education, health and happiness, we’re honored to be a partner with PBS KIDS, which is No. 1 in children’s products,” Simon says. “We are excited to provide parents with an easy, rewarding shopping experience when buying fun, educational toys for their children.”