MILAN — Price-savvy fashionistas across Europe have had a secret weapon in stocking their closets with end-of-season designer digs:, which is now trying its hand west of the Atlantic.

In just under two years, the Bologna, Italy-based e-commerce site has become a leader in selling off-season women’s and men’s designer apparel and accessories, such as Marni, Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Prada and Balenciaga, among others, at reduced prices. Since it went live in September 2000, Yoox has delivered 150,000 units to more than 35,000 customers in 15 European Union nations and currently stocks some 200 designer brands. Now founder and chief executive officer Federico Marchetti is bringing the site to the U.S., where it has initiated testing. Marchetti expects the site to officially launch by yearend.

The company says it will charge American clients an $8 shipping fee for three-day UPS delivery. While many e-commerce sites have been forced to close their virtual doors, Marchetti expects Yoox to succeed because of its close relationship with and proximity to fashion houses.

"We take end-of-season merchandise and sell it in an environment that does not devalue the brand nor pose a competitive threat," Marchetti said, adding that the firm can afford to give clients special services, like reduced shipping prices, because of low overhead.

With an overall investment of just under $15 million (converted from euros at the current exchange rate), Yoox broke even in the second quarter of this year. Marchetti expects 2002 sales to reach $12 million and of that, 10 percent is earmarked for ad, marketing and public relations.

The Web site is part Pop Art, part design boutique, with research tools that allow users the option to search by brand, size or type of clothing.

Yoox’s staff of 40 is discerning with its choices and will reject merchandise sent by its suppliers that it deems too season-specific. Suppliers include fashion houses and multibrand boutiques.

"Our philosophy is that good fashion is timeless," Marchetti said. "So we really search out items that have a life span of more than one season."

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