The Limited likes to say it is arriving fashionably late to the e-commerce party, but simply late would be more like it. The retailer, which was founded in 1963, will launch its first transactional Web site in September.

This story first appeared in the July 23, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Limited Brands didn’t believe Express and Limited Stores should have e-commerce,” said Linda Heasley, chief executive officer of The Limited, referring to the philosophy of Limited Brands Inc.’s founder Leslie H. Wexner, who in July 2007 sold a 75 percent stake in Limited Stores to Sun Capital Partners Inc. “As soon as we were acquired, we told Sun that [e-commerce] is an incredible opportunity because the customer has been asking for it.”

Heasley projected the e-commerce site should account for 20 percent of the company’s total business in five years. But she acknowledged that The Limited will need to build awareness for the new site. “Being so late to the game, we’ve been able to get this up and running pretty quickly and leverage some of the technology pretty quickly. There was a silver lining to this cloud,” she contended.

The site will have a full selection of apparel, including pants in short, regular and long lengths and extended sizes, from 14 through 18. Select tops will be available in XL. The site also will have an outfitting guide and store locator.

“Going forward, we know there are certain items that we’ll have online that we won’t have in stores,” said Heasley, citing outerwear and jackets. “We’re testing intimates in a number of stores this fall. The goal is to [eventually] roll it out to all stores. We’re looking at having a more complete assortment online.”

Activewear was tested by The Limited last year. Heasley said activewear will be offered online, but was unsure of its fate in stores.

The Limited is rolling out personal care in stores next month and could sell an expanded range on the Web site. Heasley said a fragrance and candle could be in the offing.

The Web site, which has a clean graphic look, will allow shoppers to sort and search for products a number of ways. At the time of the launch, there will be about 400 apparel and accessories choices.

“Our employees are so happy about us coming into the 21st century,” Heasley said. “Our customers are very excited as well. We’ve already gotten a lot of [responses] to our e-mail sign-up on our existing site.”

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