Date Lady finds international success in partnership with Amazon


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Jun 21, 2023

Date Lady finds international success in partnership with Amazon

After almost three decades in business, Amazon's place in the e-commerce

After almost three decades in business, Amazon's place in the e-commerce industry can seem monolithic. But the online retailer encompasses many moving parts — small businesses make up over half the sellers on Amazon — including some in the Ozarks.

One of the small businesses finding success in the online marketplace is Springfield-based company Date Lady. Colleen Sundlie, the company's founder, began selling products on Amazon around 2014-2015. Sundlie said she began to explore the online marketplace after feeling disappointment while struggling to locate her products in stores.

"I'll never forget the first time I walked into one of the first regions of Whole Foods that we got into, and I believe this store was in Arizona. I knew we were in there, but I could not find our product anywhere," Sundlie said. "I'm the brand founder, so I have an eye for our label, but I couldn't find it. Finally, I saw it was on the bottom shelf in this huge sea of honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, all the things. At that point, nobody had even heard of date syrup and so nobody was looking for it for certain."

In the beginning, Date Lady fulfilled its own orders through Amazon. When a customer ordered a Date Lady product through Amazon, the Springfield company, with a manufacturing facility on Commercial Street, would package and ship the orders directly. It didn't take long before Amazon orders became unmanageable for the small Springfield team. As of Tuesday, 19 employees work at the Springfield facility, Sundlie said.

Once Date Lady began receiving multiple orders through Amazon per day, the company transitioned to Amazon-fulfilled orders, which is how Date Lady partners with Amazon today.

"We forecast how many products we'll sell in the next time period, let's say a month, and then we send pallets weekly to the Amazon warehouse," Sundlie said. "Those products are not sold yet; they're just stored in the Amazon warehouse."

Sundlie said Date Lady pays Amazon a referral fee for serving as a global marketplace and an FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) fee, which covers the cost of product storage at the warehouse and shipping. One of Date Lady's most popular products is a three-pound squeeze bottle of date syrup, which cost $25 on Amazon. Sundlie said after processing, manufacturing and Amazon fees, the company profits about $11, which is "very comparable" to selling in a brick and mortar store.

When Date Lady first began partnering with Amazon to fulfill its orders, the company sold five to 10 products a day. For 2022, Sundlie said Date Lady sold 60,000 products throughout the year on Amazon, which is roughly 164 products per day.

Looking toward the future, expansion is a must for Date Lady.

"Honestly, we cannot keep up with demand right now," Sundlie said. "We're facing lots of out-of-stocks." Sundlie added that the Date Lady team is working on strategies to better meet high demands, such as the addition of new machinery.

Andy DiOrio, Amazon regional public relations manager, told the News-Leader that small businesses like Date Lady make up about 60% of Amazon sellers. All small businesses on Amazon are indicated by a "Small Business" badge, a storefront icon, on their product listing webpages.

As a small business owner, supporting other local, small businesses is important to Sundlie. She said Date Lady works with SMC Packaging Group in Springfield for all product packaging and Ample Labels in Nixa for all product labels. Additionally, Date Lady works only with Missouri farmers to source the pecans for the brand's seasonal, award-winning fruitcake.

Sundlie established Date Lady in 2012 after being introduced to date syrup while living in the Middle East with her husband in 2005. In November 2019, the Sundlie's opened Café Dhibs on Commercial Street, a micro-café that featured food and drinks with an emphasis on dates. Due to the pandemic, the Sundlie's had to close the café in 2020.

When it comes to the impact of the pandemic on Date Lady's business, Sundlie said sales actually "increased quite a bit" due to the increase of customers purchasing from online marketplaces like Amazon.

Sundlie said within the year, Date Lady will release a new product that she is excited about. Date Lady fans may expect an announcement soon.