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1/17/2005
04:28 PM
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Online Retailing Is Good For The Brand

Several retailers shared their branding strategies at this week's National Retail Federation conference in New York. Online retailing can have a big impact, they said.

For many companies, brand is everything. In fact, a brand represents about 60% of a company's stock-market value, Tara Weiner, vice chairman and national managing partner of consumer business industries practices at Deloitte and Touche LLP, told attendees at the National Retail Federation's conference this week in New York. That's why so many companies, including Nike U.S.A., Charming Shoppes, and Neiman Marcus Group, are using the Internet to maximize the power of their brands.

In addition to creating advertising buzz around its "Speed Campaign," which was formulated around the Olympic Games in Athens to further expose the Nike brand, Nike also set a goal to drive online traffic. "One place we can control consumer experience is on Nike.com," said Jim Beeman, director of marketing at Nike USA, at the industry show. Consequently, the company has created two category-specific Web sites, Nike.com and Niketown.com, which allow Nike to communicate one-on-one with consumers who are interested in specific product categories.

The notion of customization also is important to building a strong brand, Beeman said. For example, Nike has created another Web site called Nikeid.com, where shoppers can design and personalize shoes and gear based on their preferences "It's the energy point around specific products and it will drive excitement around the marketplace in the future," Beeman said.

Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus Group Inc. was concerned that it wouldn't be able to expand its customer base, but creating an online store has proven to be successful, said Burt Tansky, president and CEO of Neiman Marcus Group. Neimanmarcus.com has enabled the retailer to ship to 46 states in its first month of operation. "We've had enormous success selling designer merchandise," Tansky said. "So for us the online business is expanding quickly and it's here to stay."

This also has been the case for Charming Shoppes Inc., which carries the leading plus-size brand in the U.S., Lane Bryant. With the creation of its online store, the company has opened a new venue for plus-sized women to shop. "Just imagine the [number of] sizes that have to be carried in the apparel business if you're serving customers sizes 14 to sizes 36," said Dorrit Bern, chairman, president, and CEO of Charming Shoppes, at the show. The online store is a perfect place to carry the sizes that Lane Bryant stores and other retailers don't carry, Bern said. It also creates customer loyalty and strengthens the Lane Bryant brand, ensuring consumers that they can always find what they're looking for online.

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