PREFER.COM ADDS 4 APPAREL BOOKS TO ITS LINEUP

New York — “I’m a serial entrepreneur,” quipped Doug Platt, chief executive officer of Prefer.com, which has just added 13 catalogs — four of them apparel titles — to its roster of cyber-catalogers, bringing its list of e-partners to a total of 25 since the site’s launch on April 12.
The new apparel titles are J. Jill, California Style, Draper’s & Damon’s and the catalog unit of Dress Barn, in addition to Northwest Express and Faith Mountain.
“This is my fifth startup,” recounted the 36-year-old Platt, from his offices in the fashion district here. The new concept: connecting merchandise assortments from apparel, home, food, and gift catalogs with various Web destinations, ranging from portals to Prefer’s own site, so that each can benefit.
For the cataloger, the offer is one of an enhanced presence online, while sites such as portals are able to offer users a wider variety of shopping options. Prefer.com puts its partners’ catalog of products and opt-in consumer data into a new database, and adds a group of shopping tools to the package, before redistributing the catalogers’ goods to consumers at Prefer.com, or other destinations, including Inktomi.com and BatNet1.net.
Apparel is a focal point for reasons of simple math: The category accounts for about half of the $80 billion catalog business. “We figured apparel is slow going on the Net now, partly because it’s hard to find lots of brands in a single place,” Platt said.
“As e-commerce continues to evolve, we are always looking for new opportunities to expand our customer base and build our brand awareness,” said John Hayes, president of J. Jill Direct, the catalog and e-commerce division of The J. Jill Group.
Previously, Platt started the Daily Planet catalog, building a $500 investment into a $25 million business that he sold, five years ago, to then-Dayton Hudson, a concept that has since been folded into that company’s Web site, Target.com. Next came furniture, travel and homeless-services businesses.
“Our approach to getting money [for Prefer] was telling investors we’re from the real world,” Platt said when asked about his transition to cyberspace. “It worked.”
Among the site’s investors are Prospect Street Ventures; eCom Partners; Draper Richards; Pennell Venture Partners, and Argus Capital, as well as Ted Pamperin, co-founder of J. Crew and Tweeds, and Steve Kahn, chairman and ceo of Delia’s and iTurf. Pamperin is also running Prefer’s sales division, signing catalogs as partners.
Prefer raised $4 million in its first round of financing and expects to secure another $10 million to $13 million, in a second round of funding, within the next 30 days, Platt stated.