BUGLE BOY’S WEB TUNE

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Some Internet retailers believe that if you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t in the tech game.
Bugle Boy Industries has a different philosophy.
According to Brian McCarthy, director of e-commerce for Bugle Boy here, the company has a cautious, conservative approach to Internet technology that has served the casual-apparel company well.
The retailer has incrementally adopted basic technologies, such as a store locator and sizing charts, steadily building traffic to its Web site, http://www.bugleboy.com, through conventional means like an in-store signage and promotions.
The company has avoided experimenting with more expensive solutions like zoom and pan technology, but is now readying a more ambitious initiative, which should be implemented by the end of this year. McCarthy said that Bugle Boy expects to reap $10 million in incremental sales by linking store computer terminals to the company’s e-commerce inventory.
“We believe this is going to be huge,” he said.
With 280 stores catering to moderate-income families, Bugle Boy has a clear handle on its top 15 lines, including denim pants. Yet, McCarthy noted, “We can’t keep every size and every color in every store.”
However, the retailer’s e-commerce fulfillment center does have a clear handle. The retailer has thus decided to implement thin-client computer terminals from IBM, in Armonk, N.Y., that will allow store customers and sales associates to browse the Bugle Boy Web site.
When store customers can’t find their size or color preference, sales associates will be able to point them to computer terminals in the store, enabling customers to order those items and have them delivered to their homes.
“With the number of stores we have, with the number of times people can’t find exactly what they want, making the Web site available inside the bricks-and-mortar stores is a tremendous opportunity to eliminate most lost sales and add millions of dollars in incremental sales, at least $10 million annually,” McCarthy said.
The computers are dubbed “dumb terminals,” because all applications reside on a host server rather than in the terminals, which offer access only to the Bugle Boy site. So, customers in the stores won’t be able to surf the Web, said McCarthy. “There’ll be a single [Web site] address they can access.”
Moreover, by using thin-client technology, headquarters will be able to push other applications through the terminals.
Thin-client technology presents significant cost advantages for several reasons. It eliminates the need for field support and requires maintenance personnel at only one location. It also significantly reduces the ability of store-level users to crash in-store systems, because employees can neither access system files nor install unauthorized software such as games or screensavers, which often prove troublesome.
Bugle Boy recently added a new wrinkle to how it promotes the Web site to store customers: Sales associates are soliciting customers’ e-mail addresses by offering to e-mail them online coupons for use at the e-commerce store.
Later this summer, the company will begin offering electronic gift certificates redeemable at either online or off-line locations. “We’re anxious to get this going quickly,” said McCarthy.
This will be possible once the two separate databases for online and off-line purchases have been “synched up.”
“It takes a lot of integration,” he said.

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