Men's Wearhouse Plans Cautious Foray Into E-Commerce

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New York -- The Men's Wearhouse will tread cautiously when it starts selling men's apparel on its Web site online in May or June, said chief information officer Jeff Marshall at the National Retail Federation's annual forum here on Jan. 16.

"As a basic rule, we see the Web site as nothing but an extension of our Men's Wearhouse stores," Marshall told attendees. "It's a huge opportunity, but a huge risk as well. We're proceeding with much caution in this new channel."

The online store and retail branches will share the same fulfillment policy and back-end financial systems and credit authorizations. Also, there will be no special discounts or different pricing for the dot-com arm.

At launch time, the site will only accept orders from within the United States. It will debut with 20,000 products -- intentionally "narrow and deep until we know what the volume [of online shopper traffic] is," said Marshall. The site also is expected to boost traffic in stores. The current information-only site already allows visitors to locate stores across the country and get merchandise information.

"We still feel that we can service you better in the store," Marshall said.

The retailer also plans to combine customer data collected over 15 years with information collected through Web site sales.

Besides building and extending Fremont, CA-based The Men's Wearhouse's brand and terrestrial store traffic, the new will have community features for the retailer's 8 million male customers. About 60 percent to 70 percent of the site - which is being created with technology from San Mateo, CA-based Blue Martini Software - will include features such as laundry tips, online chats, and regularly updated content on fashion trends and dressing details.

"Most men do not like to shop," Marshall said. "We believe the same attribute will exist on the site. We're going to make it very quick for the guy to shop." For instance, big buttons or tabs will allow quick navigation from page to page.

The site will also aim to cross-sell and upsell through convenient and contextual placements of apparel or accessories. "You want the Internet process to help the shopper choose" in the same way a store associate would help him, Marshall said.

Direct access to CEO George Zimmer will continue as part of the personal touch. Zimmer's telephone number and e-mail address are listed in his message on the site. Zimmer has long been the face of The Men's Wearhouse in advertising, known for signing off with the brand's quality assurance, "You're going to like the way you look. I guarantee it."

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