By Chad Simon
Morris 4x4 Center Has Maintained a 30% Average Annual Growth Rate Since 2005
Morris 4x4 Center is a pure-play Jeep parts and accessories Internet retailer—which accounts for 98% of all sales—and is housed in a 32,000-sq.-ft. facility in Pompano Beach, Florida, with 70 employees.
It started as a 6,500-sq.-ft. warehouse complex with six units. Every few years, the company expanded into another unit. In November of this year, Morris will move again, this time into a 60,000-sq.-ft. facility.
Birth of Morris 4x4 Center
With the emergence of the Internet in the early- to mid-’90s, Glenn Morris, the company’s president/CEO, sold a used Jeep part in an online classified ad for the first time. “I decided to give everything I had to the Internet, and if it worked out, great; if not, I’d find something else to do,” Morris said.
It was this revelation that led him to discover the future of marketing and logic of Internet sales. In 1996, Morris purchased his first URL for the company and listed his best-selling items on the website.
“I was never someone who turned wrenches,” Morris admitted. “How I ended up in Jeep parts was a pure act of God. It came from the success I had when I sold my first Jeep part online, and I wanted to duplicate that. Each time I did, the business got bigger and bigger.”
One of the greatest challenges Morris faced at first was attracting the right talent to work for him. But perhaps his most formidable opponent was himself.
“Sometimes I’m my worst enemy,” he admitted. “I’ve grown uncomfortable borrowing money; I’m cautiously aggressive by nature. If I had some of the recklessness of my youth, I’d be 10 times bigger if I had believed in leveraging myself heavily.”
For an online business, attracting and maintaining customers is all about price and the reputation you build for yourself, and if you fail to consistently deliver on either, you’re just a mouse click away from losing the deal. Along with a comprehensive array of products and information, Morris’ company website, www.morris4x4center.com, offers an inspirational quote from the Bible. Morris admits that professing his faith online and in print might not be the most popular thing to do; however, he credits his relationship with the Lord and running his business based on biblical principles as a main contributor to his constant growth.
When it comes to forging vendor relationships, Morris has been in the industry long enough that his largest suppliers have also become his good friends. He said that his company has benefitted from relationships with key people at companies such as Omix-ADA/Rugged Ridge, Crown Automotive and Bestop.
According to Morris, attending the SEMA Show each year has been immensely beneficial in helping him to network with vendors and be a little more aggressive in the marketplace.
“It’s become more and more important for us to be there as we have been every year,” he said. “In the past, we would have to pursue manufacturers who weren’t open to Internet retailers. Many had the impression that we were selling things out of a garage with no inventory. Things have changed drastically since the early years, as everyone now embraces the Internet.”
Surviving the Great Recession
Morris 4x4 Center
Since 2005, Morris has averaged 30% sales growth year over year. The Great Recession in 2008 devastated the economy and took many businesses with it. However, Morris 4x4 Center survived that year with a 5% rate—his slowest growth year to date, but he fared better than most at the time. As the recession dragged on for several years, Morris 4x4 Center rebounded with 42% growth in 2009.
“We had unbelievable growth through those years because we sold parts and accessories,” Morris said. “In a downturn like that, people stop selling their cars and start fixing them. It was a better mix of product for us; it was actually a blessing. In 2008, I was scared. Everything you read in the media said the sky was falling, from housing to banking. We got cautious and pulled back; we got leaner and meaner, but we grew through it.”
He is now in the process of broadening the company’s offerings outside the Jeep niche because there was a lot of fallout on the truck side during the downturn of 2008. Companies were diversifying into Jeeps, and some were closing. Most of them heard how big Jeeps were, so the market became oversaturated.
Morris is not considering building brick-and-mortar locations around the country.
“When you have activity with back doors and loading docks, you need to be able to watch those doors,” he said. “That’s one thing I love about Internet distribution—you can keep an eye on the facility. You can do $100 million out of the same facility you do $3 million. There are advantages to being spread out. It would behoove me to have stores all throughout the United States, but I just don’t want the headache. It’s a recipe for employee theft and mismanagement. We are, however, doing due diligence to use an outside fulfillment company to offer better service to the West Coast.”
Morris hopes to maintain the 30% growth he has averaged over the years but understands that it becomes harder to achieve that same sales level as the company expands.
“Every vendor we buy from distributes Jeep and truck,” he said. “It’s a natural tendency for us to diversify into truck now. I know that people don’t modify their trucks like they do with Jeeps, but you see tremendous amounts of them going down the highway, so we know we’re going to get some of that business.”
Morris advised young retailers breaking into the industry to never let people tell them that something can’t be done.
“Naysayers’ opinions can be toxic,” he said. “In this day and age with technology, anything is possible, and a company like Amazon proves it. Anything you put your mind to, you can do. Treat your customers how you’d want to be treated. Put them first and don’t try to win the race overnight.”