Rocker Rags proves that focusing on your passion can create a hit.
After giving his first concept a shot, online retailer David “Lando” Landis found some magic with a more targeted formula.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Lando’s first e-commerce venture Awesome Avenue was, as he describes it, “An all-in-one vintage pop culture department store.” He stocked merchandise that could scratch almost any Gen X itch, with music, TV, film and toy departments.
Awesome Avenue was gaining real traction right up until the economic downturn of 2009.
While you can imagine how fun such a store would be to explore in person, it was a bit disorienting online. “People were looking for very specific things,” Lando says, and when a pair of Vuarnet sunglasses was listed alongside $4,000 Donkey Kong arcade machine, shoppers “just didn’t get the parallel.” Still, Awesome Avenue was gaining real traction right up until the economic downturn of 2009.
The Rocker Rags epiphany was summoned with help from a well-respected retail consultant, who told Lando his store’s offerings were simply too broad to stay viable during in the recession’s brutal economic climate. Lando remembers the interaction: “He said, ‘You need to hone in. What’s your true passion? Is it really Knight Rider? What is it?’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s music.’ And he said, ‘Do that.’”
Lando set out to launch Rocker Rags as the quintessential “all-around rock and roll lifestyle company.”
Music, in fact, had always been playing in background. Though he took music lessons as a kid, Lando knew being a rock star was never in the cards. Still, from a young age he was intrigued by the industry’s production side, and he went on to work for years in radio before developing Awesome Avenue.
Combining his interests in music and apparel suddenly made all the sense in the world, and Lando set out to launch Rocker Rags as the quintessential “all-around rock and roll lifestyle company.”
Credibility is what keeps Lando’s shop growing despite the presence of bigger competitors like Hot Topic and Rockabilia—stores that stock many of the same products. Lando curates his product line and writes detailed, 100-word-plus descriptions for each item. He maintains an active social media presence. Much of the time the discourse is more about rock news than about the products.
“We eat, breathe and live what we’re doing. We aren’t just some store out in the stratosphere selling rock shirts. We’re immersed in it.”
Lando says these efforts make a real difference: “Our customers like it, because they realize we eat, breathe and live what we’re doing. We aren’t just some store out in the stratosphere selling rock shirts. We’re immersed in it.”
Last Christmas, Lando experienced the power of this kind of credibility. The passing of rock icon George Michael shocked the world, but Lando was faced with another surprise in the wake of the news. His phone started lighting up with order notifications—shoppers were buying George Michael memorabilia in droves.
Lando isn’t just in the apparel business, now—he’s in the music business.
Rising on the Charts
“As the business has done well year over year, it’s not just full time—it’s full day”
Lando now spends all his working energy on Rocker Rags. “As the business has done well year over year, it’s not just full time—it’s full day,” he says. He believes his Albuquerque-based company’s growing success is rooted in the timeless and far-reaching appeal of rock. As Lando puts it, “Music is universal. It’s for everybody.”
To keep his small company moving fast in the right direction, Lando has stayed scrappy. He doesn’t spend a lot on marketing, and he’s choosy about trying new ad tools.
Lando has stayed scrappy. He doesn’t spend a lot on marketing, and he’s choosy about trying new ad tools.
With his focus on high-quality content (from product descriptions to social media posts and blogs), it’s no surprise that SEO was Lando’s original marketing focus for rockerrags.com. He focused on drawing traffic through search organically, and he maintained a skeleton marketing budget otherwise—less than $50 a month for things like boosting Facebook posts and sending the occasional email blast. But BoostSuite came along and changed that paradigm, and it was credibility that made the difference.
It helps to have a gatekeeper you trust, and that’s the role Lando’s site host BigCommerce plays for these advertising and marketing tools. “I can’t count how many marketing emails I get on a weekly basis,” says Lando. “But until I get word from BigCommerce that it’s a proven thing, I’m not interested.”
Lando has seen huge results, with an off-the-charts clickthrough rate and an 8.9x return on his advertising dollar.
When BoostSuite popped up as a recommended add-on, Lando knew it was legit. After he installed the app and signed up for the free program, he started seeing results. His network grew and his traffic increased. But it was BoostSuite founder and CEO Aaron Houghton that really sold him on the value of a more significant partnership. Aaron reached out directly and convinced Lando BoostSuite could work wonders for his store. Aaron’s track record held a lot of weight for Lando: “He understands tech. He knows how to build good companies. And those are the types of people we want to be aligned with.”
Since upgrading Rocker Rags to a paid plan, Lando has seen huge results, with an off-the-charts clickthrough rate and an 8.9x return on his advertising dollar. He’s optimistic about the current trajectory, and he plans to continue investing in the BoostSuite partnership.
The Grand Vision
Rocker Rags is, in the grand scheme of things, a building block for Lando’s future. Whether he continues operating rockerrags.com or decides to sell it at some point to a bigger competitor, Lando sees Rocker Rags as the springboard for his big dream: Rebel Luxe Management.
Every quarter Rocker Rags grows, Lando feels he’s making progress towards more stable and sustainable revenue flow
Lando describes the idea behind Rebel Luxe Management is a company that “combines rock and elegance.” He has some big things up his sleeve, he says, and Rocker Rags is “the key to open the door to what Rebel Luxe can become.” Every quarter Rocker Rags grows, Lando feels he’s making progress towards more stable and sustainable revenue flow, and actualizing a real future for Rebel Luxe Management. “It all comes back to that,” Lando says.
Wherever the road takes him, Lando’s success and his journey so far offer more proof that when you focus on what you’re passionate about—and strike up smart business partnerships like BoostSuite along the way—good things will follow.