By  on August 10, 2005

The store-within-a-store concept is heading to the Web.

Last month, Lee Jeans opened a store within a store on the Sears Web site and has plans to open at least one more on another retailer's Web site soon.

Technology from WebCollage of New York makes it possible for the brand to give shoppers a richer experience with better art and more information. The Lee store at Sears has a distinctly playful, retro feel, with a doll-like cowboy mascot on the opening page. Inside the store, shoppers can view apparel in 360 degrees, see comments from other customers and read about the benefits of Lee products, such as its stain-repelling Nanocare finish for khakis.

"I know retailers try to do a real good job of promoting their brands whether in-house or national, but there's limited real estate and resources they have to do that," said Alex McDonald, Internet marketing manager for Lee Jeans, part of VF Corp., in Merriam, Kan. "This is a way to partner with them and show them we could help them help their consumer experience shopping for Lee products within the Sears site."

Lee Jeans plans to open at least one more Lee shop with another, as yet undetermined, retailer. "We will wait and see how the program works and if we get the returns we expect before we implement any more," said McDonald.

Lee Jeans hopes the shop will entice new customers who might have previously skipped over the company's offerings when they appeared as thumbnail images mixed in with other merchandise on the Sears site. Lee also hopes the shop will convert a higher number of browsers into buyers, said McDonald.

For the first two weeks, Sears ran a colorful banner on its front page advertising the shop to drive traffic to it.

"They're getting more opportunity within their site than they had before," said McDonald.

Sears did not return calls for comment.

WebCollage charges brands an annual fee for creating and maintaining a store. It has created similar stores within stores for consumer electronics and beauty brands, including Chanel. The beauty boutiques have appeared in the online stores of Macy's, Sephora, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, said a WebCollage spokeswoman.The WebCollage technology automatically customizes and syndicates stores for brands. Very little is required of the retailer. WebCollage provides retailers with one line of HTML code that points to the WebCollage server, where the content lives.

The WebCollage site automatically scans a Lee Jeans site and matches the information with the Sears site. It pulls only the inventory that Sears carries and at Sears' prices.

"We have to watch and make sure our catalogues are updated before the product is shipped out to the retailers, and we know when our shipment hits Sears' distribution centers," said McDonald, "so we can know when we need to have our category updated, so their site can pull the products from our site to make [the update] happen."

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