IS THE WORLD ON THE WEB?
WHILE THE WORLD WIDE WEB HAS GENERATED A LOT OF INTEREST, FEW IN THE AREA HAVE ACTUALLY SET UP SITES.
Byline: Brenda Lloyd
ATLANTA — Everyone’s talking about it, but specialty retailers in the Southeast are not jumping on the World Wide Web bandwagon, according to sales representatives.
Only a handful of reps at the Atlanta Apparel Mart have developed Web sites, and the ones who have say that few retailers are using the Internet — at least in the Southeast. They do believe, however, that the Internet will catch on within the next two to four years, and at a quicker pace than fax machines did. And when it does, these pioneers say they’ll be ready to receive orders, having had time to work out the bugs.
“This industry doesn’t seem to be that interested in becoming Internet savvy. I think the bug just hasn’t hit them yet. They’re more into feel and touch and coming to market,” says Elaine Coyne, president of Elaine Coyne Galleries Inc., who has won awards for her four-year-old Web site. But salespeople have their hands full with writing orders and travel, she points out, and the Internet can help ease their load as well as market products.
According to Charles Rossignol, president of Greatlines.com Inc., a Web site connected with the Yes Yes Yes showroom: “The apparel industry is not at the forefront of this [Internet], but the medium is perfect for it. The possibilities are endless, especially once you get the graphics. It has instant communication and verification. I see the industry going in this direction.”
Rossignol is so excited about the possibilities that he has turned his focus entirely toward developing the Internet Web site while his wife, Judy, has taken over as president of Yes Yes Yes.
His plan for Greatlines.com is to represent hundreds of manufacturers — men’s, women’s and children’s — who will use the site to market their products to retailers. At this point, he has the 10 manufacturers represented at Yes Yes Yes on the Web site. Rossignol isn’t charging them a fee, and he hasn’t decided what to charge other users when he gets them.
He developed the site with the help of Richard Palmer, president of Online Information, Atlanta. “It took quite some time because I didn’t know what I was doing and [Palmer] didn’t understand my business,” Rossignol said of the process that took a little over a year. “We made a lot of mistakes because there wasn’t a model to follow.
“Although we’re up and running, it’s so new that it’s still in a state of flux as we speak,” he continued.
Rossignol explained that retailers can use the site to look up manufacturers and see what they’re selling on any given day and then write an order. A copy of the order, including a picture of the item, is e-mailed or faxed to the retailer, along with confirmation that the order was received and filled.
The manufacturers give him a descriptive list and price of products, and retailers who have an account can get onto the site. But the site also has a guest feature that allows retailers that don’t have an account to log on and see the products, but without prices. Retailers also have the option to print out the descriptions to send to customers or for use in their stores, he said.
Rossignol plans to build a Greatlines.com site for manufacturers, modeling it after the original and to assist manufacturers who want to create their own sites using their own designers.
He also wants to create what he calls “Web rings,” which will compartmentalize categories so that a user looking for, say, swimwear lines can look under the swimwear category for a list of manufacturers.
Right now, Rossignol is using few pictures on the site, but said that he will include more graphics as the site evolves. He will also add a hit meter to find who is using the site. Elaine Coyne’s Web site, www.ecg.com, already has a hit meter and gets around 400 hits per day. It was named one of the top 200 Web sites in the world by the All-Internet Shopping Directory in 1997 and won the Angel of Fashion Web site award that year.
Her site has 30 pages. Since Coyne’s showroom is for her own accessories lines, the site lists the markets other than Atlanta in which she participates (Dallas and New York) and show dates, a basic description of her jewelry and belts, information on individual items including photos and catalog ordering information.
Coyne writes the copy for the site, but Richard Turner, vice president of Elaine Coyne Galleries, designed it and does all the layouts.
The cost is nominal — less than $50 per month, Coyne said. And it’s definitely paying off. For one, more people know about Coyne’s different lines, and it offers retail support because consumers can learn which stores carry her accessories.
And while she is getting retail orders through the site, Coyne said that the approximately $3,000 a year that comes from it is minimal, compared with total sales.
She does, however, receive about two requests for catalogs per day from retailers, and her catalog order tends to be about three times larger than those taken at shows — an average show order is around $1,000 versus about $3,000 for a catalog order, Coyne said.
And, retailers have visited her showroom after seeing the Web site. “It’s increased our business about three percent,” she said. “It’s a very good way for a small company to get its name out there for a small price,” Coyne said, adding that she updates the site at least every other month.
Pat deRobertis, president and co-owner of Italian Connection, designed her Web site, www.Italianjewelry.com., with the help of Internet Marketing. Like other pioneering Web site owners, she said it took several months to set it up.
“I didn’t dream it would take so long,” she said of the site that has been up since April 1997. “I’m very pleased with it. We haven’t made a bundle, but I have made a lot of contacts…and it gives credibility.”
She said that the site has generated some sales, that new customers are visiting her showroom, and that it’s helping her build a good mailing list. “It’s my silent salesman,” she said. “I have a presence in places I haven’t had one before.”
The site, which costs her $1 a day, she said, has a home page that draws inspiration from her showroom design. It has baroque tapestry curtains around the names and a representative picture of the four categories that she sells — 14-karat and 18-karat gold jewelry, sterling silver, Venetian glass beads and Limoge porcelain boxes. “We have over 2,000 different things, but you see only a few on the Web site,” she said. She has, for example, 19 items in the Venetian glass beads category with descriptions, prices and pictures, as well as a history of Venetian glass beads.