Byline: Robert Murphy

PARIS — Could Lands’ End become the next big American pop culture phenomenon in France?
Cyber-watchers will get an early read on the possibility this fall. The Dodgeville, Wis.-based cataloger of casualwear last week revealed the first details of its previously reported plan to go live online with a French Web site at this September.
Following the French launch, Lands’ End is slated this year to open country-specific Web sites in Italy, Ireland, Spain, and Austria.
In a presentation at the Hotel Sofitel here Thursday, Lands’ End executives said they were confident — even after the highly publicized meltdown of ballyhooed fashion e-tailer — that its French language, currency and content site would be a hit.
The September launch will mark the first time Lands’ End enters a market by launching a Web site without an accompanying catalog venture. Observed Sam Taylor, international director of Lands’ End: “Today, it’s important to have a multichannel business, and the Internet is a low-cost method to penetrate a new market.”
Meanwhile, Lands’ End does plan to launch a French catalog as soon as its Internet business here begins to take off.
Taylor declined to give first-year sales projections for the French Internet venture.
Beyond the U.S., Lands’ End has established catalog-Internet joint ventures in Japan, Germany and the U.K.
“We are aiming to be a global brand,” Taylor stated.
Unlike other retailers who have tried — and failed — to turn a profit online, Taylor asserted, Lands’ End has leveraged several competencies vital to making money in the electronic forum.
“First, we have a proprietary product that provides us with good margins [between 40 and 50 percent],” Taylor specified. “We also have established a technology model and have the [catalog] infrastructure a lot of [Internet] start-ups don’t have.” For example, he said, Lands’ End owns a British-based warehouse for pan-European distribution.
Acknowledging that brand equity is one key to success in cyberspace, Taylor noted the company will mount a print advertising campaign here to boost the site’s launch.
One of the other key challenges Lands’ End will face in France, and other Latin countries, is adapting its product to contemporary regional tastes in fashion. Taylor said, for instance, that the company would increase its offer of black apparel, a color popular on the Continent, but currently less important in the U.S.
Occasionally, the firm will introduce special items for the European market, but mostly will offer the same apparel here as it does in the States.
“We are believers in the future of the Internet for apparel retailers,” Taylor asserted.
The Lands’ End executive cited a study by Internet consultant Forrester Research, which is forecasting overall business-to-consumer sales online will expand from about $53 billion worldwide this year to more than $440 billion by 2004.
The study conducted by Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester further estimated France would account for 6 percent of the online market outside the U.S. by 2004, following Japan, which is expected to capture a 23 percent share, and Britain, at 11 percent.
“We’re already in the top three Internet markets [outside the U.S.], so France represented a vital addition,” Taylor offered.
This year, Lands’ End projects its worldwide sales will reach $1.3 billion, with about 14 percent of the volume, or $182 million, coming from overseas.
As for its U.S. Internet business, opened in 1995, Lands’ End is eyeing full-year sales of $138 million for 2000, up twofold from sales of $61 million in 1999.

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