SUNGLASS HUT WEB SITE TO SELL ARMANI WATCHES

Byline: Courtney Colavita / Valerie Seckler, New York

MILAN — Giorgio Armani is taking another step online.
In a bid to boost its presence on the Internet, Armani announced Monday that it has fashioned an exclusive e-commerce arrangement to sell its Emporio Armani watches at SunglassHut.com, the Web site mounted by Sunglass Hut International.
An Armani official noted that the move marks the fashion house’s second spin with e-commerce, a world it is exploring at a gradual pace. “We’ve always had the view that e-commerce is most appropriate to our most-accessible lines; that’s why we went with A|X Armani Exchange first,” said Robert Triefus, corporate vice president of worldwide communications at Giorgio Armani SpA. “We also believe, like a lot of people, that [selling] accessories works better on the Web than apparel. Subsequently, when we were approached by Sunglass Hut, we pursued [a deal].
“In essence we believe this is another test for us, another step in the exploration of what e-commerce has to offer this brand,” Triefus continued. “But for our most-sophisticated lines, we don’t believe the Internet is the best place for sales. We don’t see that for the foreseeable future. Although the Internet represents a revolution in how people communicate, we believe brick-and-mortar is still absolutely essential.” Triefus added. “The contact with clients is an important part of the process that cannot be replaced by technology.”
Armani’s first foray with e-commerce came last July, as noted, when A|X Armani Exchange struck a deal with former business-to-consumer Web site Urbanfetch.com, offering users same-day delivery of A|X goods bought at that destination online. Since Urbanfetch pulled the plug on its B2C unit last year, it has continued to fulfill A|X’s online orders through a business-to-business relationship. In December, Armani began selling A|X Armani Exchange on its own Web site, at giorgioarmani.com.
For the new venture, Armani collaborated with Sunglass Hut International in the design of the Emporio Armani section of the Web site, and that brand’s products are the first at that Internet location to incorporate three-dimensional technology. Fifteen styles for both men and women are now available, including the new, large Digital Sport model and the first gold-plated Ladies Round. Prices range from $125 to $300.
Since launching in 1997, Emporio Armani watches have been sold through Watch Station, a division of Sunglass Hut International, and through Watch Station-Sunglass Hut combo stores. A spokesman for Coral Gables, Fla.-based Sunglass Hut said that the decision to take the label online was a natural evolution. Sunglasshut.com sells more than 60 brand-name watches and glasses to customers in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Sunglass Hut International has nearly 2,000 Sunglass Hut units and more than 100 Watch Station and Watch World stores worldwide.
Last week, Giorgio Armani announced that its sales for 2000 ran up 20 percent to nearly $1 billion and said it expected a 25 percent growth in 2001. Consolidated net revenues — not including the sales of licensed products such as fragrances, eyewear and watches — reached $970 million last year; for the upcoming year that figure is expected to jump to $1.22 billion. All dollar figures are converted at current exchange rates.

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