Stacking Up: Jason Goldberger brings e-commerce experience to Hayneedle

Before landing roles in the e-commerce world, Jason Goldberger pursued a bachelor’s degree in government at a liberal arts college with no intention of ever landing a role in the political system. “It was just something I did,” said Goldberger, who graduated from Colby College in Waterville, Maine. “I always assumed I would get a

Jason Goldberger, Hayneedle’s chief merchandising officer, formerly directed the home improvement and sports and outdoors categories for Amazon. Photo by Andrea Ciurej.

Before landing roles in the e-commerce world, Jason Goldberger pursued a bachelor’s degree in government at a liberal arts college with no intention of ever landing a role in the political system.

“It was just something I did,” said Goldberger, who graduated from Colby College in Waterville, Maine. “I always assumed I would get a job in business and I really didn’t know what that was.”

His uncertainly eventually led him to the retail business, where he served as a buyer for the television network Quality Value Convenience (QVC) and big-box retailer Linens ‘N Things.

Amidst the popularity of the internet, online shopping became a trend and e-commerce transformed the retail business.

“I certainly had no vision of what e-commerce was before it existed,” Goldberger said. “I love the concept of new ideas, new channels and new technology in retail.”

Then, he received a call from America’s largest online retailer, Amazon, and signed on to work for the Seattle-based company.

“The fact that we were going to sell 1,000 grills to people sitting in front of a 14-inch lousy computer screen, lousy colors [with a] dial-up internet connection was still a predominant means of being online,” he said. “I thought it was kind of crazy to be a part of it.”

The online retailer was only five years old when he joined in 1999.

“I would call a hotel and they would ask, ‘Company?’ and I would say, ‘’ and the reaction was always the same, ‘How do you spell that?’” Goldberger said. “No one knew who we were, we were not a business, what’s e-commerce?, who’d ever buy things online besides books? – all of those comments were made.”

Despite some financial trouble within the business, Goldberger became the third person hired to work on Amazon’s home business in 2000. It was then that he led the expansion of Amazon’s home business into new categories, such as floor and personal care.

Goldberger was also responsible for serving as the director of sports and outdoors, which launched Amazon’s sporting goods business.

“The stock price really suffered and a lot of people thought I was crazy to stay and then it just kind of evolved,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience to be around the kind of quality of people, energy, pace and ideas and truly the attitude that we could change the world and in some small way I think we did that.”

While evolving with Amazon, Goldberger received an “out of the blue” phone call from Doug Nielsen (left), founder of Hayneedle, an online retailer of home furnishings and lifestyle products. Nielsen spoke to him about a “powerful idea.”

“The idea was there was this wonderful company bigger than people thought that was really poised to become something bigger,” Goldberger said. “They were looking to further build the company and wanted me to come be apart of it.”

Goldberger couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

“I realized that this was a chance to really be apart of something that I could really have a real active leadership role,” he said.

And, in 2007, Goldberger joined Hayneedle as their chief merchandising officer heading up the Omaha-based company’s retail.

Hayneedle was launched in 2002 as NetShops, featuring more than 200 individual niche stores, each devoted to one product, such as for hammocks and for bar stools.

“But they weren’t connected at all,” he said. “There was a common backend, there was a common infrastructure but from a customer perspective…it was really difficult to go from one site to another.”

Therefore, the company rebranded themselves as Hayneedle in 2009 and revamped their website to ensure the ultimate customer experience and provide an easy-to-shop environment.

The concept was to bring all of the stores under one brand.

“You don’t want to dig through books to find bar stools,” Goldberger said. “If you’re looking for new bar stools for your house to a new patio umbrella, you want to go to a store that just sells patio umbrellas.”

Can it be as big as Amazon?

Goldberger said it doesn’t do him any good to think about it.

“We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think we could make this into a well-known brand,” he said. “What I think about is how do we build this into an exciting company? I think we’ve done that. How do we get customers in on that excitement? We are doing that through the brand.”


Quick Scoop

Jason Goldberger’s job profile:

1993-1994  Federated Department Stores (now known as Macy’s Inc.)

  • Industry: Retail
  • Position: Executive Training Program

1994-1997  Quality Value Convenience (QVC)

  • Industry: Retail
  • Position: Buyer

1997-1999  Linens ‘n Things

  • Industry: Retail
  • Position: Buyer

1999-2007   Amazon

  • Industry: e-commerce
  • Positions: Director of Home Improvement, Director of Sports and Outdoors, Senior Category Manager of Home, Tools and Gourmet Food, Divisional Merchandising Manager – Kitchen, Senior Buyer – Kitchen

2007-Present   Hayneedle

  • Industry: e-commerce
  • Position: Chief Merchandising Officer

Specialities: E-commerce, general management, merchandising, inventory planning, product development, new business development, user experience, usability

Jason’s Take

What is the difference between television retail and e-commmerce?

TV is different in the sense it is about one individual product at a time. You have the customer’s attention, you’re talking about one item and the entire environment is very controlled by the show host in terms of what the customer should be seeing. The internet is the opposite. The customer is going to look wherever they want and decide how they want to shop and every customer will take a different path. Different kinds of customers can shop how they want, where on TV, pretty much everyone shops the same way.

What is the business model for e-commerce?

Business and retail, e-commerce retail, is all about knowing your customer and knowing what they want to buy. I look at the internet as just a delivery vehicle. It’s having the right product, it’s pricing it right and making it easy for the customer to find.

How would you define yourself as an entrepreneur?

It’s about building businesses and growing businesses. I want to innovate and do something different and I want the company to do that. I look at myself as an entrepreneur as what what any business be, how do we make it bigger, better, different, where are we headed and then, how do I get folks that want to come with me.


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