FASHION500 FINALLY ONLINE AFTER TWO-YEAR INCUBATION

Byline: Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK — “We’ve only just begun,” declared Michael Bereck, chairman and chief executive officer of Fashion500.com, the upscale e-commerce portal that went live online Monday night following two years of planning and development.
“I don’t celebrate. I just keep going,” Bereck added in an interview Wednesday. “We have a long way to go. The next stop is the moon.”
Although some ‘Net watchers’ moods turned from hot anticipation to one of skepticism over whether the fledgling site would ever open as the timetable for its launch lengthened, Bereck said Fashion500.com “started seeing orders within 20 minutes of going up. We were surprised,” he acknowledged. “We had to scroll down a couple of pages to see all the orders. And we have sold apparel — pants, shirts, ties — for men and for women. It’s not just jewelry or accessories.
“We are especially happy about that, because that was a big question on everyone’s mind: Can we sell upscale apparel on the Web?”
Overall, Bereck said, the site has received “thousands of hits,” via 17 e-boutiques that now offer e-commerce to consumers. That lineup includes virtual shops for Philosophy by Alberta Ferretti, Mary McFadden, Burma Bibas, Fernando Sanchez, Barry Bricken, Carmen Marc Valvo, White & Warren, Temple St. Clair Carr and Betsey Johnson, among others.
Besides offering e-tail shops to consumers, Fashion500 has mounted a dozen password-protected, information-driven, independent Web sites for its upscale fashion partners, which are linked to Fashion500 for business-to-business purposes. Fashion500 aims to roll out the site’s B2B component within a month, Bereck projected Wednesday. “We’ll start in a few days and do a few [B2B sites] at a time,” he noted. “Most have thousands of registrants already.”
Despite Fashion500’s quiet launch — an ad campaign is slated to break in early November — Bereck said he’s had calls from a number of companies that have visited the site this week and subsequently expressed interest in opening an e-boutique on it in time for holiday business. He declined to specify those players, however, pointing out that no such deals had yet been firmed up. Bereck did say that the company has been contacted by some interested parties outside the realm of apparel, including suppliers of upscale items from luggage to sporting gear.
As for the company’s strategy to develop a fashion-lifestyle TV show, tentatively called Fashion500 TV, Bereck said the plan is progressing more quickly than he expected.
“We are already writing scripts for the TV shows,” he related. “We will definitely get it rolled out and it will be a big part of what we do.” Bereck added that he expects the program to air sometime during the first quarter of 2001.
While the program as currently envisioned will not offer commerce akin to home shopping channels like HSN and QVC, it will promote the Fashion500 Web site via ad teasers that use the destination’s Web site address, fashion500.com. Plus, the company recently registered the url, Fashion500.tv — a domain name suffix that’s newly available — to help convey the multimedia aspect of the upscale offer.
Bereck was also excited on Wednesday, he confided, because he’s a lifelong Yankee fan who worked as a vendor at Yankee Stadium, he said, when he was “a poor kid from the Bronx. I used to work one job during the day, and then go to the stadium at night,” he related. “I’m really not a big baseball fan anymore, but I couldn’t help but watch the [pennant-clinching] game Tuesday night. It was exciting.”

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