By  on March 5, 2010

At Bluefly this week, the recession seemed to be on hold.

The 12-year-old Web site, like the rest of the dot-com and retail communities, sharply cut inventories last year. But for its spring launch commencing at 6:31 a.m. Wednesday, there was a significant buildup, with 2,500 new styles listed versus 2,000 a year ago. The plan apparently paid off as the Web site saw a 160 percent sales gain on the day, according to Bluefly’s chief marketing officer, Brad Matson.

He declined to disclose the volume, but attributed the surge to the increased product investment, ongoing efforts utilizing the fashion blog world and key word search, and the improving mood within luxury and retailing. “We sent out a teaser [e-mail] the night before. Shoppers got to the site early, and sales took off,” Matson said.

Now the challenge is to sustain the momentum and eventually move the company into the black. Bluefly is heading in the right direction, narrowing its loss last year to $4.4 million from $11.3 million in 2008. Across all its pages, Bluefly lists 16,000 items from more than 350 designers and brands, and sells merchandise at 20 to 40 percent off regular prices.

The increased number of products is also about financing. Bluefly got a shot in the arm recently from Rho Ventures, which purchased about $15 million in new common stock at $1.70 a share and became the site’s largest shareholder with a 33 percent stake.

Matson also contended that Bluefly’s format to encourage browsing is advantageous over the private, limited time “flash” sales. While Bluefly occasionally conducts a flash sale, customers mostly leisurely browse the site and its main pages spotlighting trends. For example, on the dress page, mini and flirty summer dresses are featured; on the sportswear page, leathers and city shorts are played up. In swimwear, monokinis are a key trend, and in shoes, it’s about neutrals and texture. “We know 70 percent of all women’s apparel shopping is browsing,” Matson said.

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