NEW YORK — Giorgio Armani is recharging its Web effort.

The fashion house is gearing up to launch e-commerce at the Emporio Armani Web site in April with an offer of watches, its second stab at e-tailing from its own Internet property; today, Armani will start selling two-dozen items from the spring Emporio collection via fashion portal Style.com.

While plenty of lip service has been paid to the glories of multichannel integration, few in fashionland have actually stepped up to the cyberplate and delivered.

Some of the sector’s most aggressive playmaking, however, has come from the designer crowd, as well as smaller e-boutiques focusing on contemporary labels, including Armani, which launched e-commerce back in 1995 at A/X ArmaniExchange.com. The group also includes recently launched johngalliano.com; newly updated marcjacobs.com; runway.polo.com; christiandior.com; dvf.com; fashion500.com, and Tracey Ullman’s PurpleSkirt.com. As many of the designer sites are marketing driven, or offer a relatively small selection of their goods for sale online, their cyber-efforts, by definition, are tied closely to channels like stores or catalogs — and go well beyond slapping URLs on shopping bags or hang tags.

The latest bid to boost business by plying virtual distribution channels comes from Emporio Armani, via fashion portal Style.com. Style.com is set to go live today with a mini-site where Emporio Armani fans can view (and buy!) six runway looks for spring, comprising the 24 pieces, while gleaning advice along the way from Style mavens on how to put it all together. During the next six weeks, fashionistas can transact purchases at Style.com for goods that will be delivered from the Emporio Armani stores located nearest them. And a link to Style.com (which is owned by WWD parent Advance Publications) is set to go up today at the Armani Web site.

The move marks a second go-round for Emporio and Style, after a similar program begun on Sept.10 proved ill-timed for the e-commerce attempt. The current campaign is timed to coincide with New York’s Fashion Week, a period when traffic at one-year-old Style.com tends to peak. Roughly 700,000 users visit Style.com each month, and they’re spending an average of 17 minutes per visit, according to Style.com publisher Susan Cappa. “During Fashion Week, the average visit extends to about 20 minutes,” she noted.

“This is the only way people can access the spring Emporio Armani collection online,” said Robert Triefus, Armani Group’s corporate vice president of worldwide communications. “We will be looking at what is most successful at Style.com and we may add some looks or items based on what’s selling.”

Prices of Emporio Armani’s online assortment of nautically-themed looks start at $118 for a belt; go north to $598 for a dress, and include shirts at $198-$278; pants ($168-$298), and jackets ($448-$498).

Emporio’s latest effort will be supported by ads it places on Style.com, along with in-store and window displays at select Emporio Armani stores and e-mails targeted at the brand’s U.S. customers.

“We’ve taken a steady but sure approach to e-commerce,” Triefus offered. “E-commerce can add value, but it doesn’t change the retail world overnight.” Still, Armani has been a pioneer in cyberspace, offering a limited assortment of A/X Armani Exchange goods online since 1995 and relaunching armaniexchange.com with a much broader selection in February 2000; A/X also experimented with mobile commerce back in August 2000.

The fashion house is continuing its adventuring ways, both with the Style.com “test,” as Triefus termed it, and its plans to introduce e-commerce this spring at EmporioArmani.com. “In April, we will be launching e-commerce for Emporio Armani watches at our own site,” Triefus told WWD on Friday. “We’ve got a fairly sophisticated component for our Web sites through A/X. We have the capability to expand in our own world,” he said, when asked if Armani envisions additional e-commerce alliances akin to the arrangement with Style.com. Thus, Triefus noted, future online merchandising initiatives will most likely be handled in-house at Armani. “The Internet is continuing to play an increasingly important role in our communications mix,” Triefus added.

Both Triefus and Cappa were coy Friday, when asked how much they’d invested in the Emporio Armani effort. However, Triefus explained, “The way it works with Style.com is much the way it works in a [print] magazine. This is an advertising commitment as well as an editorial commitment,” he said in referring to ads Emporio Armani is placing on Style.com to hawk their latest foray. “One might equate it to a full page of advertising in a core fashion-lifestyle publication — and we’re getting six weeks’ exposure.”

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