NOTHING BUT NET

FIT TO BE SIZED: San Francisco-based TheRightSize Inc. said last week it will launch a business-to-business service in time for back-to-school that will enable consumers to better gauge what size to order when shopping for clothes, jewelry and accessories. Ernesto Aguirre, co-founder and chief executive officer, told WWD that the service enables consumers to register information such as size and manufacturer of items they recently bought to better determine the appropriate size to order when buying from a new or competing manufacturer. The recommendation from TheRightSize, free to consumers, is based on information from, and compared with, other registered consumers. Businesses which partner in the program can provide specs for Aguirre’s firm to work with on the back-end of the size comparison computation. According to Aguirre, the service benefits businesses because it drastically reduces consumer returns based on improper fit. According to his firm, the total costs of fit-related returns are estimated to reach $35 billion by 2003, up from $25 billion in 1998.

B2B FINANCING: Fashion and footwear business-to-business Web site e7th.com closed on its second round of financing last month, raising $13 million for use in further developing its infrastructure and increasing its marketing efforts. The majority investor is Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Private Equity. The other investor is MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, Inc., which also invested in the company during its first round of financing. According to Todd Ricci, president and chief executive officer of E7th.com, the site is set to go live by the end of June.

AMES DETOUR: Ames Department Stores has formed an alliance with Ramp Networks, a provider of Internet service platforms, that gives Ames an Internet-based backup in the event that its own computer network goes down. In the event of network failure, data for Ames’s 460 stores will be rerouted over the Internet using Ramp’s WebRamp 315i platform. The backup network was designed and is maintained by Net56, based in Palatine, Ill., which provides other services for Ames as well. “We’ve run stores for several days during local network outages and have seen no impact to our store operations,” said Norm Veit, divisional vice president of support services at Ames, in a statement. “This initiative is another step in our ongoing strategy to leverage the Internet wherever possible to increase business function and reduce cost.” Net56 president Bruce Koch noted that backups are especially important to ensure approval of debit cards if network failures occur.

EX-OUTLETS.COM: Prime Retail Inc., has closed its Primeoutlets.com subsidiary, on the Web at eOutlets.com, after Prime Retail was unable to sell it to an investor group made up of the site’s management and outside investors. The eOutlets site was scheduled to go live this summer selling name-brand merchandise at outlet store prices. Prime Retail owns and operates 51 outlet centers totaling 14.7 million square feet in 26 different states. Its outlet portfolio has an occupancy rate of 91 percent, but apparently the transition to cyberspace was less friendly. Prime Retail will take a $13 million charge to earnings in the first quarter of 2000, $9.5 million of it associated with expenses incurred this year, including the discontinuation of the site. Although it never got to see the cyber-light, eOutlets had a memorable slogan: “Kick off your shoes and shop.”

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