BLUEFLY, IVILLAGE SITES TRIM QUARTER LOSSES

Byline: Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK — A duo of fashion-lifestyle dot-coms weighed in Thursday with narrower third-quarter losses, suggesting there is still some life left online for pure-play e-tailers and even (gasp!) content-driven sites.
For the three months ended Sept. 30, fashion off-pricer Bluefly.com slashed its net loss by 49 percent, to $2.4 million or 33 cents a share, from a net loss of $4.6 million, or $1.01, in the third quarter of 2000, while content-driven women’s media network iVillage lopped its net loss by 87 percent, to $5.9 million, or 11 cents, versus a year-ago deficit of $44.4 million, or 81 cents.
Bluefly did it the old-fashioned way — based on strong sales gains which, ironically, were stoked by a weak economy that provided the off-pricer with more in-season goods than usual. Its revenue for the quarter ran up 48 percent to tally $5.1 million, against $3.4 million in the prior-year period.
Asked what’s hot on Bluefly at the moment, Ken Seiff, the dot-com’s chief executive officer, said, “Cashmere, leather and suede fashions are selling. There is an abundance of merchandise in the market. It’s not just better prices, but the availability of more current product.” Still, the better deals did boost Bluefly’s quarterly gross profit to $1.5 million, versus $560,000 in the year-ago period, and lifted gross margin to 28.5 percent from 16.2 percent.
In addition, Seiff related, “There appears to have been a shift of some business to the Internet as a result of people spending more time at home since Sept. 11. They’re probably spending more time online, following the news and sending e-mail. Perhaps, as a result, they’re spending more time shopping on the Internet.”
Sales for women’s media network iVillage, based here, reached $18.1 million, up 19 percent compared with the second quarter, but off 38 percent from year-ago revenue of $29 million.
About $9.2 million, or 84 percent, of the year-over-year sales drop stemmed from lost business with dot-coms. Properties other than flagship women’s portal iVillage.com contributed 40 percent, or $7.2 million, of the firm’s third-quarter sales. They include The Newborn Channel, Lamaze Publishing, and the Business Women’s Network, a privately held group based in Washington, that connects more than 5,000 firms and 39 million executive women via fee-based services, through BWNi.com. The addition of 23 advertisers; the launch of streaming video ads called Near Television Quality ads, and ongoing efforts to sell research and other services contributed to the sales hop.