*Crate & Barrel Taps Fry Multimedia

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Crate & Barrel became the first national specialty chain to offer online shopping services yesterday when it unveiled its new online storefront created by Fry Multimedia Inc.

According to Bethany Fenton, manager of project management at Fry Multimedia, Ann Arbor, MI, building a site takes a lot more work than it did two years ago.

"Just a year ago, many businesses just wanted to be online. They would figure out the rough later. But today, if you want to conduct e-commerce, it's like building an actual physical facility."

Fry has been working on the Crate & Barrel site (www.crateandbarrel.com) since last year. The agency said it has received thousands of e-mail inquiries from online shoppers wanting to know when the site would launch.

Chris Segal, Crate & Barrel's catalog business manager and director of e-commerce, said the company didn't mind waiting to create a solid presence on the Internet.

"We weren't as eager to be there first. We were more concerned about doing a site that would be seen as consistent with our brand identity. We want the site to showcase Crate & Barrel's wide range of products, yet still retain the atmosphere that our catalogs and retail stores are known for all over the world."

Founded in 1962, Crate & Barrel is a privately held company with more than 80 stores in the United States. About 10 percent of its annual revenues come from traditional catalog sales. The company's largest competitors - Restoration Hardware, Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn - continue to operate without fully integrated online shopping capabilities.

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