BLUELIGHT, BOO SITES MADE OVER FOR HOLIDAY
Byline: Valerie Seckler
NEW YORK — Holiday’s virtual makeover parade is continuing with a pair of high-profile Internet players staking their claim for the season’s business on a facelift, fresh assortments and some new shopping tools. BlueLight.com, which is controlled by Kmart Corp., and Boo.com, owned by pure-play Fashionmall.com Inc., both went live with redesigned Web sites Monday.
That’s where most of the similarities end, however.
For the new Boo, the mission is to reestablish the pure-play as a fashion portal with links to Web sites e-tailing the urban and active brands in demand among young, trendy, affluent fashionistas, thus building a franchise with staying power. For BlueLight, it’s a question of stoking the momentum it has established as one of the fastest-growing Internet service providers, while still fulfilling orders in a timely manner.
This time around, Boo is beginning on a less-ambitious scale, in terms of product assortment as well as target markets, but it is placing a greater emphasis on its fashion and pop culture editorial content. Buttons for the Web site’s three content channels — dubbed “know,” “now” and “next” — sit on the top portion of the home page, just below the navigation bar with Boo’s shopping categories — men, women, unisex — and its search engine, which enables users to prowl for product by brand or e-shop. Content has been added to the shopping area as well. By entering the women’s department and clicking on the “next” button, users get a take on what’s ahead, from the e-tail site’s style arbiters. On Monday, for instance, that portion of the Web site advised: “For spring 2001, the Eighties return: slick minimalism crashing against punk excess.” “Both the Internet age and original Boo.com began in the naive belief that pragmatic business practices were passe in the new economy,” said Kate Buggeln, president of Boo.com. The new effort, she added, aims to create both “an unbelievably exciting customer experience, while being focused on the fundamentals of good profitable business management.”
Boo reopened Monday with an assortment of about 250 different items, as envisioned, and plans to change roughly 20 percent of its offer each week. Eventually, Boo seeks to link with between 50 and 60 fashion e-commerce sites that are aimed primarily at its 18- to 30-year-old target customer, but will rely on those partners to fulfill orders and own the inventory, rather than purchase and distribute the goods itself. That’s the critical departure from the formula followed by the former version of Boo, which went live Nov. 3, 1999, and liquidated this May after burning through more than $130 million provided by financiers such as Bernard Arnault’s Europatweb, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and Bain Capital. Fashionmall.com, established in 1994, acquired Boo.com’s brand, Internet address and Web site content in June, during the liquidation proceeding, which was managed by KPMG.
There are now a handful of clear-cut ways to shop Boo from its home page: by entering one of a half-dozen “bootiques,” such as xuny.com, skim.com, londonwide, office london, the clothes store and fresh; by clicking on “boo’s top 10,” an array of products deemed hot and happening by the Web site’s style arbiters; or by selecting one of the gender or search engine features atop the landing pad. Merchandise highlighted in Boo’s top 10 Monday included a pair of Bulo fake fur-lined purple boots, priced at $179; an Aei:Kei sleeveless top with slash details, $68.30; Psycho Cowboy trousers, $98; a Caloi Brazilian cruise bike, $213.38; and a Ducati hypersport motorcycle, $20,995.
Plus, Boo has mounted its new portal in the U.S. and U.K., rather than flying with a multilingual, multicurrency format like the e-tail site that went live under the Boo flag last November in a dozen markets in Europe and the U.S. Plans call for the portal to premiere in Sweden and Germany during the first quarter of 2001 and to continue to expand, through 2002, into additional European markets, followed by moves into Asia and then South America. Late next year, Boo might also begin to mount its own e-commerce effort, e-tailing various fashion and lifestyle products bearing the Boo.com brand.
In short, the new Boo is aiming someday to have a global reach by targeting niche markets worldwide. Boo’s construction Web site was drawing about 35,000 visitors a week, or 140,00 people per month, Buggeln said, lured by an e-mail registration prompt from Ms. Boo, the Web site’s icon. Ironically, Boo.com began to lure enough customers to appear in the monthly traffic reports made by Web ratings agency Media Metrix just as its financing was beginning to collapse. Boo drew 558,000 unique visitors in April, which is not typically a heavy shopping month, versus just 80,000 unique visitors last December, traditionally the year’s biggest shopping period. Boo’s customer count fell to 228,000 unique visitors in May, largely because the previous owners posted a message mid-month stating the Web site would only fill orders that had already been placed, but the e-tail site still had the minimum 200,000 unique visitors required to make Media Metrix’s listing for the month.
Taking a different tack, BlueLight.com, which now claims more than 4.5 million subscribers, is continuing to beef up its merchandise offer. Mark H. Goldstein, chief executive officer of the Kmart-controlled Web site, told WWD Monday that BlueLight now has approximately 300,000 stockkeeping units online, up from 60,000 a few months ago, and just 1,250 sku’s when it went live last December. The product additions have come across several key categories, including baby and toddler, home goods, books-movies-music, electronics, sports and toys, as well as its e-boutiques for proprietary labels like Route 66, Jaclyn Smith, Kathy Ireland and jr-s.com.
Also new at BlueLight.com are:
A Pop Culture Shop, designed to showcase hot items and trends that are based on current movies, TV shows, music and games.
Guaranteed Christmas delivery for products ordered by the dates posted with those items.
A multiple ship-to feature, enabling users to ship goods to various addresses on one order form instead of having to fill out a new form for each address and reenter various data like the purchaser’s name and credit card number.
A engine enabling shoppers to search for goods from anywhere on the Web site by product name, keyword or brand name. The new engine includes a spell-check feature, in an attempt to make unusual brand names easier to locate.
A comparison shopping tool, which allows customers to compare an item they’re browsing with three similar products, including images of those items.
For the 12 months between this October and October 2001, BlueLight is targeting sales of about $100 million, Goldstein revealed. “The truth is, if you’re part of a $40 billion retailer, anything less than that isn’t worth it.” It was only this October that BlueLight launched a substantial assortment, he noted in declining to estimate the Web site’s dollar volume for 2000.
“We’re where we want to be this holiday,” Goldstein concluded. “We’ve built our store, we’ve hired our people; next year is when we’ll really try to start taking some prisioners.”