Check out the article featurning Deal4It.com in the Northern Colorado Business Report:
FORT COLLINS – It wasn’t like this more than 30 years ago when Tim Lanham founded his pawnshop business.
Back in 1977, Lanham was the proprietor of Mister Pawn, a traditional pawnshop on North College Avenue in downtown Fort Collins where sellers would bring in their guns and fishing poles and television sets to pawn or sell.
Fast-forward to 2011 and Lanham is poised to take the pawnshop experience – riding a wave created in part by such TV reality shows as “Pawn Stars” – into the 21st century.
Now the owner of 22 Mister Money stores (the name changed in 1993) in three states with six more independent franchise stores operating under the Mister Money name, Lanham is about to launch a new twist to pawn shop shopping.
Using technology he calls “automated negotiations,” Lanham is planning a soft launch of deal4it.com on Nov. 11.
“More and more shopping is done online, and for you to have a pawn shopping experience now you will only have to go to one (online) store,” he said. “It really opens up a whole new world.”
With deal4it.com, multiple pawnshops will be able to list their items in one place.
Can’t find what you’re looking for in your hometown pawnshop? Lanham’s deal4it.com website aims to give the online buyer access to a host of pawn shops with almost unlimited items to choose from.
All licensed sellers
Lanham said participating pawnshops will pay his company a fee on each sale, which he expects will be about 7 percent.
All of the pawn stores listing items on the deal4it.com site will be licensed dealers so buyers can be confident about the integrity of the transaction, he said.
If this sounds a bit like eBay, it is – but with some important differences.
With deal4it.com, “you’re only dealing with pawnbrokers, and when you go to eBay you really don’t know who you’re dealing with,” he said.
Lanham said he’s been selling merchandise on eBay for more than 10 years, but recently eBay began making it harder for smaller sellers to do business on the site.
“It’s almost gotten to the point where the buyer can hold you hostage,” he said. “They can ask for their money back for any reason, or give you a negative review.”
Lanham also said he believes eBay is moving away from dealing in used merchandise. “Pawnbrokers are dealing almost exclusively in used merchandise, and they don’t want to do that.”
This past spring, Lanham said “a lot of pawnbrokers were getting kicked off eBay.”
“So we thought, maybe there’s a niche for pawnbrokers to sell all over the United States and sell directly to people,” he said.
Pawn’s new image
The new, burnished image of pawnshops thanks to TV reality programs helped Lanham see an opportunity in getting multiple pawnshops to sell their wares on one easy-to-use site.
“It’s become popular, and I said, ‘If we built a site, would you be interested?’ and lots of people said yes,” he said.
More than mere listings of available merchandise, the site includes interactive video salespeople who are programmed to help with the sale.
Using algorithms and video responses to every offer that might be made on an item, the characters can bring a sale to a conclusion just like a real-life salesperson in a real-life pawnshop.
Lanham said the pawnshop includes the lowest acceptable price on each item and, when an offer is made, the character can tell the potential buyer if they’re close. Counter-offers can then be made until a deal is struck.
The site uses Rich Interactive Video Works technology that Lanham and his partner, Doug Will, sold to a Tampa-based company called UNATION earlier this year.
Both Lanham and Will are optimistic their new website will succeed, and with about 15,000 pawn shops across America, there are potentially a lot of takers.
“We’re excited that this might work,” said Will.
And while many individual pawnshops are already selling on their own websites, no one else is offering the single, combined-selling concept, Lanham said.
“There is no other … that I know of,” he said.
“It’s an online pawn shopping adventure.”