You are here to close at the end of the month

Published September 12, 2016

BEAVERTON, Ore. (BRAIN) — Longtime online retailer has announced it will close at the end of September.

Team Estrogen Inc. co-founder Susan Otcenas said a number of factors contributed to the decision, including price competition and changing consumer behaviors.

"We were never about price and discounts, and the world has changed. There's a fundamental tension between the kind of hands-on customer service and high-quality staff we've always had and the customer demand for lower prices and free shipping," Otcenas said. "The consumer has spoken that they value those things, and I totally understand it, but as a small company, it's hard to compete in that space if that's the main focus. It's a race to the bottom, and we're choosing not to go down that road."

Otcenas and Jeff Mendenhall started selling cycling apparel on in 1998. Mendenhall wrote the software to power the e-commerce site because none existed at the time. The retailer was best known for its wide selection and range of sizes. At its peak, Otcenas said carried more than 100 brands and between 12,000 and 15,000 SKUs of men's and women's softgoods, with a focus on the female cyclist.

"We've always done the best not with the super competitive cyclist but with the dedicated enthusiast. I think we've always had a very accepting attitude," Otcenas said. "If you ride a bike, you're a cyclist and there is no judgment whether you're a size small or 2x. We did very well with plus sizes and we were always after our vendors to make more plus sizes."

Team Estrogen Inc. operated solely as an online retailer out of a commercial building Otcenas and Mendenhall built in Beaverton in 2006. Until the company began downsizing in recent years it had 12 employees. Otcenas said she also shifted the focus from having a broad selection of brands to carrying more unique labels that were harder to find online.

"I think internet retailers have always been painted with a big, bad brush, but the reality is, the small ones like us have more in common with the brick and mortar," Otcenas said. "We empathize with the brick and mortars today and feel the same pressures. But we don't have the ability to ramp up service, offer clinics and events and other things shops have to do now. So we picked up the small unique brands and helped build them. It was a way to adapt."

Otcenas and Mendenhall have considered selling the company, which Otcenas said is financially healthy.

"We didn't find the right partner that was committed to serving female customers to the breadth and extent that we did," she said. "But I would have loved to have found a partner that could have fit TeamEstrogen into their business as their women's division, inside of an organization that was big enough to have the buying power to get freight and other discounts, to offer what customers want — free shipping and discounts."

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