AMAZON TO LIST ASHFORD.COM

Byline: Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK — Luxury e-tailer Ashford.com has aligned itself with Amazon.com.
Starting today, Ashford.com will be listed in the “More to Explore” box on Amazon.com’s home page. Other key partners at Amazon include Sotheby’s auction site; Della.com, a gift site; Pets.com, and Drugstore.com.
“Amazon’s interest validates the luxury goods category for internet commerce,” said Kenny Kurtzman, chief executive officer of Ashford.com. “This alliance also endorses us as the clear category leader. We have the most direct relationships with luxury companies. This completes our strategy to become the strongest internet marketer of luxury goods.”
Through its combined alliances with Amazon, as well as Yahoo, America Online and AltaVista, Kurtzman estimated Ashford.com would reach about half the roughly 30 million current e-commerce customers worldwide. Amazon alone is said to have more than 13 million customers, he said.
“Since our average sale — about $500 — is higher than those of a book or CD site, we don’t need the volume of customers to generate significant business. If we get just 1 percent of those customers, the opportunity is tremendous,” said Kurtzman, who added that this latest partnership would provide “all kinds of opportunities to reach new customers and deliver value in 2000.”
Amazon.com will invest $10 million in cash in Ashford.com, Kurtzman said.
In return, Amazon.com will own 16.6 percent of the Houston firm’s outstanding shares when the deal closes, probably by the end of the year. No Amazon executives will be named to the Ashford board, however.
“It was important for us to retain control,” said Kurtzman, who pointed out that Benchmark Capital remains Ashford.com’s largest shareholder.
A spokesman for Amazon.com said, “This is a marketing agreement that we will explore in a number of ways. Because we have such a large base of customers now, and are obsessed with good customer service, we are very selective at choosing who we partner with.”
He said creating links to the Ashford.com site, marketing directly to Amazon.com customers who express interest in certain luxury categories and offering technical and customer service expertise are among the potential initiatives that could be undertaken.

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