The striking difference between in-store (and even some online) registration systems and Tony Alexander’s latest company,
, is that gift givers on the website aren’t actually buying a tangible gift. After registrants create an online compendium of desired items, friends and family members are invited to donate funds toward all or part of each item.
For one couple, the cost of an expensive SLR camera was divided into 10 chunks, each sponsored by a different friend or family member, which allowed the couple to purchase the camera themselves, using the money donated by their loved ones.
Women in their early-20s to mid-40s make up the bulk of SimpleRegistry users. The service can be used over and over for events from weddings and honeymoons to baby showers, anniversaries, parties and other celebrations.
Fees associated with the site generate profit, but can be varied based on individual need. For example, couples can choose between a 3.5 percent transaction fee deducted from cash gifts they receive (which covers the cost of accepting credit cards) or pass the fee along to the gift giver, so that a $100 gift costs $103.50. The site also offers a one-time, $35 charge designed to reward repeat customers.
“If someone signs up but never receives a gift, we don’t make any money at all,” Alexander says, pointing out that the company barely breaks even on credit card transaction fees.
Right now, Alexander says, registrants tend to be concentrated along the east and west coasts, where people tend to be most tech savvy. However, he emphasizes that SimpleRegistry is not an alternative registry system. “If you can go to Target and register, you can put the exact same things on your registry on SimpleRegistry.” In other words, it’s for everyone.
By Robin Donovan