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High-speed connection for Horchow.com

Andrea Lillo -- Home Textiles Today, February 24, 2003

With its sales a healthy chunk of Horchow's business after only six months up and running, Horchow.com has enabled its parent to develop an online presence as well as to expand into new categories and assortments, including window next month.

"The website is a tool for merchandising — it's not all about selling," said Michael Crotty, vp, marketing, Neiman Marcus Online, which is also responsible for NeimanMarcus.com and ChefsCatalog.com. "For the first time, the site is the equivalent to a Horchow store."

The site, which had a soft launch late summer and was promoted more in the early fall, he said, is already about 20 percent of Horchow's total business. It was difficult to gauge how the site would perform, he said, "but we didn't expect sales to be so high so quickly," adding that he didn't know what the leveling point would be.

And customers can now shop "the whole world of Horchow" he said, since the catalog division comprises 27 different catalogs, including home office, garden, linens, and bath, which are typically mailed annually.

This also gives the site an advantage: While other catalogs may change their online assortment when new catalogs are mailed, Horchow customers will see the same merchandise online as in the catalogs for a while.

It also is able to expand its assortment of merchandise online that is not found in the catalog, as well as test new areas. For example, next month the site will launch a window category, never a major area before, Crotty said. But research showed that drapes or drapery were on the top 10 list of searches on the site, so it decided to add the category. It may also be introduced in a catalog.

Other categories, like rugs, may show only six rugs in the catalog, with a blurb inviting customers to visit the website for a deeper selection. "Buyers start to think from that perspective," he said, and can broaden assortment.

Home textiles are a significant portion of online merchandise, and along with furniture make up a large chunk of it. Horchow's free monogramming of sheets and towels — "a point of differentiation" — has also been extended to its site.

Horchow is also known for "its setting the bed," and fashion bedding is very strong for the site, as are basic, good-quality towels.

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