Operations Buzz

In Conversation: LaTienda.com’s Tim Harris

December 11th, 2009

by

Tim Harris is co-owner of LaTienda.com, the largest online Spanish-food retailer in the United States.  In this edition of the “Thought Leadership Project,” Tim talks about what makes LaTienda.com unique, the company’s supply chain, the challenges of growing, and the nuances involved in managing the online food business.

About Tim Harris

Prior to joining LaTienda.com in 2001, he co-founded Teetimes.com, an online booking engine for the golf industry.  Since he joined LaTienda.com, they have grown from 1 employee to over 20 and revenues have increased thirty-fold.

Tim graduated from William and Mary in 1991, with a major in Latin American Studies. He lives in Williamsburg with his wife Amy (WM Class of 1991) and two sons.  In December 2009, Tim and his family  moved to southern Spain for 6 months where he will oversee the launch of the European arm of Tienda.com, which ships products throughout Europe.


The Conversation

This is a condensed version of Prof. Ram Ganeshan’s (RG) interview with Tim Harris (TH).

RG: What makes LaTienda.com unique?  Why can’t somebody setup a website and sell Spanish food?  What are the barriers of entry?

TH: I think that one of the secrets to our success was that we started in 1996, early in the life of the Internet. Since we’re a web based business we rely a lot on either paid search traffic, referred traffic or organic traffic and there’s really no shortcut with Google to get a high ranking.  If you do a search on search terms related to Spanish food we are ranked very high.

Over the years, we have developed relationships with over 400 affiliate sites that now link to us. We get almost 30% of our traffic organically or free.

So the barriers to entry now are fairly significant on that side — you’d have to spend a lot of money to try and get pay per click traffic to attract as many customers as we do.

RG: What about your products?  Is there something unique about your products that your competitors don’t have?

TH: Most of our product relationships are exclusive. We work with dozens of artisan producers in Spain and with a few exceptions we’re working with all of the top companies in Spain on an exclusive basis.  So that’s a barrier to entry.

RG: How do you develop these relationships with your suppliers?  If they’re unique why would they want to sign up with you?

TH: I think that now that we are established, it’s a lot easier.  In fact many of the prospective suppliers come to us now. I think they are originally attracted to us because of the lure of the American market. But because we are not a large distributor, we’re able to work with small companies. We buy pallets not containers like large distributors.  We can work with a small-scale producer and give them a lot of personal attention.

RG: How do you manage the logistics on the Spanish side?  You have to obtain pallets from these suppliers and knit them together somewhere, fill a container.  Do you have an operation for that?

TH: We contract out with a consolidating company, a freight forwarder based in Valencia, a relationship that goes back 8 years.  We also have our own buying office in San Sebastian, with a veteran manager with decades of experience.  From a supplier perspective, we take out a lot of the barriers to entry into the US market.  We take care of all the paperwork, transportation, and the logistics so they can  concentrate on making a good product.  Red tape is terrifying to many of these small producers and they are unable to navigate the rules.  We do it for them.

RG: What can you say about your typical customer?

TH: I would say a majority of our customers are food lovers with a very high level of education and an average household income of $110,000. They’ll buy an $1800 ham if it’s the best ham in the world.  They’ll spend twice as much on saffron if our saffron is the best saffron you can buy.  If there is one thing we have seen in this recession it is that people will continue to pay for quality.

We see ourselves as the bridge between the American public and Spain and we can translate the culture and the food tradition in terms that resonate with the American buyer.  It’s been the American buyer in that upper demographic who is very interested in getting back to basics as far as food and understanding who is making it and what the traditions are behind it.  There is a big movement towards supporting the small, family run producers and free-range, sustainably produced, high-quality food is gaining in popularity.  It just so happens that much of Spain missed out on the industrial revolution, and their food producers are still using traditional methods that go back hundreds or even thousands of years.

RG: You have been growing quite substantially the last two, three years.  What’s contributing to this growth?  Are you upping your marketing efforts?

TH: Referrals are a very big part of our growth, so there is a bit of a snowball effect.  We have also  upped our marketing.  We put a very high premium on service.  So in general we don’t compete on price, we compete on quality and then consumer experience.  As it turns out, these are the fundamentals that have helped companies like ours grow in this economy.  Quality, service and great selection are our bedrock.

RG: And what are the challenges of growing? What sorts of issues are coming up if you have to double your sales in 3 years?

TH: We have some very practical challenges in the warehouse as far as scale.  Our slowest month is now what we used to sell in our peak month three years ago.  On some of our peak days in December, we’re doing as much in a day as we did in a month five years ago.

One of the hard things about our business is that it is fairly seasonal and we’ll do about 30% of our business between Thanksgiving and Christmas which is typical for a food business.

So you have to be geared up for those 4 or 5 weeks of peak production – capacity which remains unused the rest of the year. We use a lot of temporary labor which is always a challenge.

We are trying to boost business in the summer through some sort of ancillary line – that’s been difficult to find.  We’ve been trying to promote paella, a typical summer dish, and that’s been fairly successful.

As far as new marketing goes, we did our first television advertising last year which we deemed a success. (RG’s note: The PBS show “Made in Spain” by Chef Jose Andres)

RG: Yes but you have your catalogs too.

TH: Yes and the mailing catalog was something that about five years ago we decided to really get into.  We will print a million catalogs this year whereas five years ago I think we printed maybe 20,000 and 7 years ago we didn’t have a catalog.

RG: You also have a call center?

TH: 15% of our orders are called in.  We have an onsite customer service office and an offsite call center for peak periods and after hours.

RG: What are your issues with supply and demand?  Do you run out of stuff or do you have stuff left over?

TH: Yes we do, we work with a perishable product and we face long lead times from Spain.

What’s nice is that Spain has a long tradition of what we call “castle” food.  So they have foods that were made to store for long periods of time at ambient temperatures.  They have a wonderful 1000-year old tradition of salting and curing, whether it’s cheeses or meats or seafood.  That cuisine is already setup for a longer shelf life.  Contrast that with Central America where a lot of the best foods down there are the fresh fruits and fresh fish, which you can’t economically import and deliver in good condition.

RG: The lead times must be quite a lot to get your products, is it not?

TH: Yes it’s at least 6 weeks more often 10 – 12 weeks. If we run out of something from Spain — unless we want to fly it over  — it’s going to take that long. Of course if we run out of a product that’s only produced once a year, we have to wait until the next harvest.

RG: Is a growth area expanding to related food, related like Latin American?

TH: We’ve launched a Latin American corner of our website selling some things from Latin America because there is a crossover.   Many of Spain’s iconic products (pimenton, gazpacho) are made up of products that were discovered in Latin America.  We have seen over a 150% increase in sales in this category this holiday season.

Most Latin American families have a connection to Spain, whether it is emotional or familial. With the demographic shift in the United States, Hispanics are the largest minority and growing fast. They are also adopting the Internet at a much faster rate than almost any other demographic group in the USA. We think we have a pretty good next 20 – 30 years in this market.

The interest in food from Spain and  Latin America will increase and we see a fusion of the two.  Eventually, in a generation or two, Spanish food will be as mainstream as Italian food now is in the US.  We think Spanish food is going to grow and grow.  The challenge will be to remain competitive as it becomes more available at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.  We think we can do that by concentrating on small, boutique producers in Spain.  Small family companies that simply could never and would never produce enough to supply a large national chain in the USA.

About LaTienda.com

LaTienda.com is the largest Spanish online retailer of gourmet food in the United States. They stock over 800 premium products from Spain and provide the broadest selection of quality Spanish food and related products available anywhere.  Learn more at LaTienda.com

Recent articles

Tags

Share & enjoy

Comments

Leave a comment


*

  • Lebron soldier 11
  • Puma Fenty
  • lebron soldier 9
  • stephen curry shoes
  • yeezy shoes
  • adidas nmd
  • lebron soldier 10
  • lebron shoes
  • ultra boost adidas
  • lebron soldier
  • curry one
  • kd shoes
  • kyrie irving shoes
  • kyrie 1
  • Curry 1
  • stephen curry jerseys
  • lebron shoes
  • nike vapormax
  • kd shoes
  • Kevin Durant shoes
  • Curry Shoes
  • kyrie 2
  • adidas nmd shoes
  • john wall shoes
  • puma fenty
  • adidas john wall
  • asics shoes
  • j wall shoes
  • curry 3 shoes
  • curry 3
  • http://www.stephencurryshoes.com
  • kd 9
  • Yeezy 550
  • kobe 12
  • Yeezy 550 boost
  • Yeezy 550
  • http://www.kd-9.org
  • yeezy boost 350 v2
  • Yeezy 550 boost
  • lebron james shoes
  • lebron shoes
  • curry shoes
  • lebron 13
  • kd shoes
  • Curry 3
  • Curry 1
  • http://www.curry1.org
  • kevin durant shoes
  • kyrie 1 shoes
  • kyrie irving shoes
  • kyrie shoes
  • yeezy boost
  • adidas nmd Runner
  • adidas nmd r1
  • kobe 10
  • irving shoes
  • adidas crazy explosive
  • kyrie 4
  • crazy explosive
  • crazy explosive shoes
  • NMD Human Race
  • kobe 10 shoes
  • adidas nmd xr1
  • kobe shoes
  • Stephen Curry Shoes
  • curry one
  • curry one
  • hyperdunk 2016
  • nike hyperdunk 2016
  • kobe bryant shoes
  • kobe shoes
  • nike kobe shoes
  • hyperdunk shoes
  • vans shoes
  • Hyperdunk Flyknit Shoes
  • vans outlet
  • stephen curry shoes
  • vans for sale
  • nike hyperdunk
  • Curry 3
  • yeezy 350 boost
  • Baseball Bats
  • kobe bryant shoes
  • lebron soldier shoes
  • lebron soldier
  • lebron soldier
  • lebron soldier
  • Nike hyperdunk
  • lebron 14
  • lebron 14 shoes
  • hyperdunk
  • lebron james 14
  • hyperdunk Shoes
  • kyrie 4 Shoes
  • kyrie 4
  • hyperdunk 2016
  • lebron soldier basketball shoes
  • under armour shoes
  • ua shoes
  • lebron basketball shoes
  • nike lebron soldier
  • nike free tr 6
  • nike free tr
  • adidas tubular instinct
  • adidas tubular instinct boost
  • adidas ultra boost
  • ultra boost Shoes
  • adidas ultra boost Uncaged
  • Ultra Boost
  • adidas tubular
  • nike free
  • Cheap hyperdunk
  • lebron soldier shoes
  • air jordan shoes
  • jordan shoes
  • jordan basketball shoes
  • jordan retro
  • air max shoes
  • nike air max
  • air max nike
  • kyrie shoes
  • nike kyrie shoes
  • kyrie 2
  • lebron soldier shoes
  • soldier shoes
  • air max 90
  • air max 95
  • bape hoodie
  • bape jacket
  • bape hoodie
  • bape clothing
  • bape hoodie jacket
  • bape hoodie shark
  • bape puma
  • bape Pants
  • Asics Gel Kayano
  • kobe 11
  • Curry One
  • stephen curry shoes
  • Nike Huarache
  • Kobe Shoes
  • lebron 13
  • harden shoes
  • Curry One
  • kobe 11 shoes
  • Under Armour Shoes
  • Curry 2
  • Curry 2
  • kyrie 2 shoes
  • D Rose 6
  • harden shoes sale
  • yeezy 350
  • http://www.yeezy350.org
  • Harden 1
  • kyrie 2
  • Curry 2
  • michael jordan shoes
  • jordan shoes
  • Gel Kayano
  • kyrie 2
  • air jordan shoes
  • Rose 6
  • James Harden Shoes
  • Curry Shoes
  • curry one
  • michael jordan
  • Stephen Curry Shoes
  • lebron soldier
  • lebron 10 soldier
  • nike lebron soldier
  • Rose 6
  • Curry Jerseys
  • curry shoes
  • Curry Shoes 2015
  • Stephen Curry Shoes
  • Harden 1 Shoes
  • James Harden Shoes
  • James Harden Shoes For Sale
  • Cheap Baseball Bats
  • Harden Shoes
  • Asics Kayano
  • Curry Shoes MVP
  • Curry Shoes
  • Cheap Curry Shoes
  • Stephen Curry Jersey
  • James Harden 1
  • Baseball Bats For Sale
  • Nike Air Force 1
  • Air Force 1
  • Air Force 1 shoes
  • Under Armour Curry Shoes
  • Air Huarache
  • kobe x
  • Kobe 10
  • Nike Harden Shoes
  • Asics Running Shoes
  • Baseball Bats Outlet
  • Cheap Harden 1
  • Curry Jersey
  • Nike Huarache Shoes
  • kobe bryant shoes
  • kobe shoes
  • Cheap Curry Shoes
  • yeezy 950
  • Baseball Bats Store
  • Curry One Mvp
  • Nike Harden Shoes
  • Cheap Curry Jersey
  • Asics Shoes
  • Air Huarache Shoes
  • Baseball Bat
  • Nike Kobe Shoes
  • Harden Shoes
  • Under Armour Store
  • Baseball Bats Sale
  • Asics Shoes Women
  • Huarache Shoes
  • Curry Jersey Sale
  • Curry basketball Shoes
  • Curry 2 Shoes
  • Stephen Curry Jersey sale
  • Curry Shoes
  • curry 1
  • Stephen Curry Shoes
  • Under Armour curry one
  • James Harden Shoes
  • Stephen Shoes
  • stephen curry shoes
  • New Curry Shoes
  • Steph Curry 1
  • James Harden Shoes 2015
  • Harden Shoes 2015
  • Asics Shoes Men
  • Stephen Curry Shoes
  • Air Huarache Run
  • kobe basketball Shoes
  • Nike Harden Shoes
  • Nike James Harden Shoes
  • kyrie 4
  • Harden Shoes For sale
  • Harden Shoes Sale
  • nike lebron james shoes
  • yeezy boost
  • new balance shoes
  • kanye west shoes
  • http://www.yeezyshoes.us.com
  • kobe x shoes
  • nike kyrie 1
  • kyrie shoes
  • kyrie irving shoes
  • lebron james jerseys
  • lebron jerseys
  • kyrie 1 shoes
  • Huarache Run Women
  • kyrie 1
  • kd 8
  • kobe jersey
  • Cheap kobe jersey
  • adidas rose shoes
  • derrick rose shoes
  • lebron james shoes
  • tissot watches
  • nike kd 8
  • kd 8
  • tissot 1853
  • tissot watches for sale
  • russell westbrook shoes
  • westbrook shoes
  • Huarache Run Men
  • russell shoes
  • Air Huarache Sale
  • jordan westbrook shoes
  • lebron james jersey
  • kyrie irving shoes
  • nike kyrie 1
  • Nike Huarache Sale
  • cheap kyrie 1
  • michael jordan jerseys
  • Nike Hyperdunk
  • Nike Hyperdunk Basketball Shoes
  • Hyperdunk Shoes
  • adidas nmd xr1
  • adidas nmd r1
  • adidas nmd
  • adidas nmd runner
  • adidas nmd pk
  • adidas nmd footlocker
  • Nike Hyperdunk Shoes
  • jordan jerseys
  • michael jerseys
  • kevin durant jersey
  • kd jersey
  • kevin jersey
  • kobe bryant jerseys
  • kobe bryant jersey
  • james jerseys
  • cheap lebron jerseys
  • d rose shoes
  • rose shoes
  • lebron james jerseys
  • lebron jersey
  • james jersey
  • d rose shoes
  • rose shoes
  • adidas rose shoes
  • lebron james shoes
  • tissot 1853
  • kobe bryant shoes
  • kobe shoes
  • lebron soldier ix
  • lebron 15
  • lebron soldier
  • lebron soldier shoes
  • kobe 12 shoes
  • michael jordan jersey
  • nike shoes
  • kd shoes
  • kd shoes
  • Curry 1
  • Curry 1 Shoes
  • Stephen Curry 1
  • kd 7 shoes
  • kd 7
  • lebron shoes
  • cheap lebron james shoes
  • nike lebron shoes
  • lebron shoes
  • kyrie irving shoes
  • kyrie shoes
  • kyrie 1 shoes
  • kyrie 1 shoes
  • irving shoes
  • kyrie 3
  • nike kyrie 3
  • kyrie 3 shoes
  • air max shoes
  • nike air max shoes
  • stuart weitzman boots
  • stuart weitzman shoes
  • stuart weitzman sale
  • stuart weitzman 5050
  • nike air max
  • durant jersey
  • kevin durant shoes
  • kd vii
  • kd 7
  • curry 3
  • curry 3 shoes
  • ua curry 3
  • curry 3 low
  • kobe bryant jersey
  • kobe bryant jerseys
  • kobe jerseys
  • kyrie 3
  • bryant jerseys
  • adidas porsche shoes
  • kyrie 3 shoes
  • adidas porsche design shoes
  • lebron james shoes
  • kobe shoes 2015
  • nike air shoes
  • nike air max shoes
  • kyrie 3
  • kyrie 3 shoes
  • nike kyire 3
  • cheap air max shoes
  • air max shoes
  • kd vii shoes
  • nba jerseys
  • kd shoes
  • kevin durant shoes
  • adidas zx flux
  • adidas zx
  • jordan retro
  • adidas tubular
  • adidas tubular Shadow
  • adidas tubular Radial
  • adidas tubular Viral
  • adidas tubular Defiant
  • adidas flux
  • cheap kd shoes
  • ultra boost
  • adidas ultra boost
  • kobe shoes nba
  • timberland shoes
  • timberland boots
  • timberland
  • timberland outlet
  • palladium boots
  • lebron soldier 10
  • nike air max 2017
  • air max 2017
  • lebron soldier
  • lebron soldier shoes
  • nike lebron soldier
  • air jordan retro/a>
  • cheap kobe shoes
  • soldier 10
  • kd shoes
  • kevin durant shoes
  • kevin durant shoes
  • jordan retro shoes
  • kd 7 shoes
  • kevin durant shoes mvp
  • porsche design shoes
  • adidas porsche design
  • adidas shoes
  • kevin bryant shoes
  • kd shoes store
  • kd 7
  • nba jerseys store
  • herve leger dresses
  • kobe shoes
  • kobe bryant shoes
  • kd shoes
  • kd sneaker
  • ultra boost 3.0
  • adidas alphabounce
  • rose 7
  • d rose 7
  • adidas boost
  • nmd boost
  • yeezy boost
  • Ultra boost
  • ZX Flux boost
  • Stan Smith boost
  • Superstar boost
  • EQT boost
  • adidas d rose 7
  • adidas alphabounce Xeno
  • Puma Rihanna Creepers
  • Rihanna Creepers
  • Puma Rihanna Creepers Suede
  • Puma Rihanna Creepers Camo
  • Puma Rihanna Creepers Velvet
  • Puma Rihanna Fenty Slides
  • Puma Rihanna Creepers Shoes
  • adidas alphabounce Ams
  • adidas alphabounce Shoes
  • jeremy scott adidas
  • jeremy scott wings
  • jeremy scott shoes
  • js wings
  • adidas terrex
  • Adidas Outdoor Terrex
  • Adidas Outdoor Terrex Trailmaker
  • adidas terrex shoes
  • lebron shoes
  • kobe shoes
  • balenciaga shoes
  • kobe bryant shoes
  • Puma Fenty Slides
  • Puma Fenty
  • Puma Fenty by Rihanna
  • Rihanna Sandals
  • Rihanna Slides
  • Puma Disc
  • Puma Disc Blaze
  • Puma Disc Shoes
  • Puma Rihanna
  • Puma Rihanna Fenty
  • asics gel kayano 23
  • canada goose
  • asics gel kayano 22
  • asics gel lyte iii
  • Puma Fenty By Rihanna
  • Puma Fenty Sandals
  • Puma Fenty Fur Slides
  • Nike PG1 Shoes
  • Nike PG1
  • nike sock racer
  • nike air sock racer og
  • Nike PG1 Shining
  • Nike Paul George 1
  • adidas yeezy boost
  • canada goose
  • Nike Pg1 Shine
  • damian lillard shoes
  • d lillard shoes
  • adidas eqt
  • nike sock racer
  • kd 10
  • nike kd 10
  • kyrie 3
  • adidas nmd r2
  • Lebron soldier 11
  • nike air max flair
  • adidas nmd womens
  • air jordan 1
  • keen uneek sandals
  • prada shoes
  • air jordan 31
  • nike air poresto
  • nike air vapormax
  • nike air vapormax flyknit
  • nike huarache
  • calvin klein
  • calvin klein underwear
  • calvin klein outlet
  • yeezy boost
  • reebok pump fury
  • reebok pump superme
  • adidas yeezy boost 350 v2 zebra
  • reebok pump fury
  • reebok pump superme
  • adidas iniki
  • ultra boost 4.0
  • Nike air force 1 flyknit
  • Nike air force 1 Multicolor
  • adidas ultra boost 4.0
  • Nike air force 1 Oreo
  • Nike air force 1 Ultra
  • Nike air force 1 Casual Shoes
  • nike air max 90 ultra
  • nike air max 90
  • nike air max 90 ultra Essentil
  • nike air max 90 ultra Moire
  • nike air max 90 ultra Flyknit
  • nike air max 90 ultra Hyyperfuse
  • wholesale hats
  • wholesale caps
  • oakley holbrook
  • ultra boost 4
  • oakley holbrook sunglasses
  • oakley sunglasses
  • adidas superstar
  • New Era Hats
  • Cheap Snapbacks
  • Snapback Hats
  • nike zoom all out
  • nike zoom all out low
  • nike zoom all out flyknit
  • nike zoom all out shoes
  • curry 4
  • Wholesale Snapback Hats
  • curry 4
  • kd 10
  • nike kd 10
  • kevin durant 10
  • adidas pure boost
  • curry 4
  • birkenstock sandals
  • lebron 15 shoes
  • birkenstock shoes
  • nike flyknit racer
  • nike air force 1 high
  • nike air force ones
  • nike roshe run
  • nike roshe run one
  • nike air more uptempo supreme
  • nike air more uptempo x suprem
  • air more uptempo
  • supreme x nike
  • nike supreme
  • nike roshe run two
  • kyrie 4
  • puma suede
  • nike zoom vaporfly elite
  • nike zoom vaporfly
  • mizuno shoes
  • mizuno running shoes