Amazon steps out with shoe site

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Internet retailer Amazon.com Inc. launched its first new Web site since the introduction of the Amazon brand more than ten years ago. Steady now: it's a shoe and handbag site.

Endless.com is Amazon's attempt to build strength in the e-commerce market, in general, and the growing demand for fashion accessories online, in particular. Its launch follows the fall introduction of Gap Inc.'s its own fashion accessories site at www.piperlime.com.

Since Amazon was initially conceived as a book-selling site and Endless.com is a fashion accessories destination, the two understandably bear little in common.

While Amazon is heralding the fact that www.endless.com offers free overnight shipping on all items, it is the site's design, navigation and search that appear to set it apart from other brands such as Zappos.com, NordstromShoes.com and Piperlime.com in this increasingly competitive space.

The Endless.com home page looks like a spread from a fashion magazine instead of the utilitarian, cram-in-as-much-info-as-you-can approach several other shoe sites take.

Then there are the search tools that appear in the left-hand column after the site visitor clicks on one of several categories: women's shoes, men's shoes, kid's shoes, handbags and sale.

In the women's category, for instance, a shopper can choose between 12 different types of shoes, pick a specific brand or choose a color range from a display of 16 color swatches. The consumer can also shop by size, width and price all at the same time. Once a shoe has been narrowed in on, the shopper can view it from seven angles.

The site currently offers more than 250 brands and 15,000 styles and colors.

Other features of the site include free return shipping, a 110 percent price guarantee on items customers find cheaper somewhere else, customer reviews and a zoom feature.

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