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Aurora to Launch E-commerce in U.S.

The transactional site for the U.K. group behind Warehouse, Oasis and Coast will have a shared basket for easy navigation between brands and combined checkout.

A visual from Oasis.

NEW YORK — Aurora Fashions, the U.K. group behind Warehouse, Oasis and Coast, will launch its first e-commerce platform in the U.S. on May 15.

This story first appeared in the April 27, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The transactional site will have a shared basket for easy navigation between brands and combined checkout to maximize cross-selling. The brands will benefit from increased traffic, while the three options will give consumers a stronger product selection.

The U.S. e-commerce site is one of a series of Aurora launches this year. E-commerce will also bow on May 15 in Australia. Later in the year, dedicated fully translated sites will launch in the Netherlands, Sweden, France and Spain. Not to neglect brick-and-mortar, Coast last year opened its largest flagship on Oxford Street. The store represented a new retail concept and showcases the entire product range.

Mike Shearwood, chief executive officer of Aurora Fashion, said the Web sites are a precursor to a possible brick-and-mortar move in the U.S. “We’re able to use our e-commerce platform to see if the brands are well received,” he said. “Then, they will get physical stores at some point.” Warehouse, Oasis and Coast have a presence in 52 countries.

“We know we have an expanding market stretching from Latin America to Australia to the Far East to the Middle East and Europe,” Shearwood said. “North America is a logical next step for the brand. It’s still a tough retail environment in U.S. Using e-commerce is a relatively low-capital, low-risk way to enter the market.”

Warehouse, the oldest of the three brands, launched in 1976 and is positioned at the upper end of the high street stores. Oasis, born in 1991, is known for feminine fashion and accessories, while Coast, introduced in 1996, offers special occasion wear.

Shearwood said Aurora’s experience with Karen Millen, which it acquired in 2009, has given it some insight into the U.S. market. There are more than 20 Karen Millen stores in the U.S. as well as shops-in-shop in Bloomingdale’s. Coast last year opened five concessions in Bloomingdale’s, including the 59th Street flagship here.

A similar approach to the U.S. e-commerce platform was trialed in Germany last year. “The unique thing about what we’re doing is we’re leveraging multiple brands through a tabulated Web site,” Shearwood said. “We’re trying to leverage and push the boundaries to make sure the customer has the best experience.”

To that end, Aurora offers more delivery options than most other retailers, including five day, three day, same day, nominated day and 90 minute. Shearwood said Aurora can cover 80 percent of the U.K. with its 90-minute deliveries. Initially, returns in the U.S. will be free. “We want to encourage people to buy and they’re not going to do that if they’re not aware of the brand,” he said.