3 RETAILERS SIGN FOR INTERACTION SHOPPING TEST

Byline: Catherine M. Curan

NEW YORK--Lands' End, Nordstrom and J.C. Penney Co. have signed on to participate in an interactive home shopping market trial with Bell Atlantic.
Interactive shopping has the potential to explode into a $100 billion-plus business in 10 years, according to a recent analysts' report from Bear Stearns.
The system, called Stargazer, will allow consumers to select merchandise instead of being shown a predetermined program.
Stargazer, which has been tested in northern Virginia, offers video-on-demand and home shopping. It will be tested with 1,000 customers in the Washington, D.C., suburbs starting in January, pending regulatory approval, Bell Atlantic said.
Orders initially will be placed by phone or fax, but on-line ordering will be phased in and tested next year.
Spokesmen for the retailers indicated that this is a research project and will not have a significant impact on sales. However, they all voiced an interest in being involved in the early stages of a retailing format that could be the wave of the future. "We're going to find out how and for what customers want to shop over a TV screen, as compared to using a catalog or walking in a shopping mall," said Michael Rabicoff, director of Bell Atlantic Video Services.
Home shopping has been
dominated by QVC Network and Home Shopping Network, which posted combined sales of over $2 billion last year. In the latest quarter, QVC earned $11.7 million on sales of $303.3 million, while Home Shopping Network earned $1.9 million on sales of $274 million.
It remains to be seen what type of competition the interactive format will be for traditional TV shopping. Some observers say the field could be very lucrative; others see some negatives.
While Bear Stearns sees interactive home shopping sales of $100 billion to $150 billion within a decade, surpassing the $70 billion catalog industry, James Meyer, analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott, Philadelphia, said interactive shopping may not generate huge returns. "Shopping is an impulse business," he said. "Interactive shopping has very limited appeal. The beauty of QVC or an infomercial is that they sell you." Interactive home shopping, however, "doesn't allow for the opportunity [for the consumer] to be sold to."
A spokeswoman for Lands' End said it will offer 17 different sections, including apparel, bed and bath offerings and luggage. Women's apparel will include outerwear, sweaters and knits.
A Nordstrom spokeswoman said the company will show a subset of the Nordstrom catalog, which features moderately priced women's apparel, shoes and accessories. She said Nordstrom wants to learn whether people are prone to shop this way and how convenient it is.
Penney's offerings will include women's career and casual wear, men's casual wear and jewelry.
--Fairchild News Service

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