NEW YORK -- In the burgeoning field of interactive home shopping, where the learning curve is steep, even several months can be a significant head start.
Right now, that edge belongs to Time Warner, which seems to have pulled ahead of the pack racing to bring home shopping to the upscale customer.
Catalog 1, a home shopping joint venture between Time Warner and Spiegel Inc. consisting of upscale catalogers, will be launched next month. In April, Time Warner will test an interactive home shopping service, modeled after a mall and featuring Burdine's, Miami, on its Full Service Cable Network in Orlando, Fla.
That puts Time Warner a few months in front of Q2, which plans to launch a lifestyle shopping channel this summer, and TV Macy's, which is to begin testing in the fall. Nordstrom's interactive shopping service is still several years away. A Bergdorf Goodman-NYNEX test will start this month, but on a very small scale.
Time Warner will have an outlet for Catalog 1. It owns or has an interest in franchises covering 12 million homes.Time Warner has another edge. While some of the new home shopping ventures are run by executives with broadcasting experience, Catalog 1 has a true merchant at its helm.
Gordon Cooke, whose 20-year career with Bloomingdale's included 15 years as chief executive officer of Bloomingdale's By Mail, joined Time Warner in November as president of interactive merchandising. He has already met with Peter Strom, vice chairman of Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. and heads of various Ralph Lauren divisions.
The meeting was initiated by the Ralph Lauren organization to discuss the alternatives in electronic retailing.
"I would be very happy to work with Ralph Lauren as I have over my 20 years at Bloomingdale's," said Cooke. "I think they obviously bring an aura of prestige to any venture.
"I have a lot of friends there and would love it if we had the opportunity to work together. But it has to be appropriate for both parties and the timing has to be in sync. I didn't try to sell them anything. I think they're looking at what role the Ralph Lauren company might play in interactive.
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