Handbag Site Bolsters View of Color, Details

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Handbag maker Dooney & Bourke polished its Web site with better imagery as it prepares for the holiday season.


Using technology from RichFX Inc., Dooney.com will offer close-up shots of its Wayfarer, All Weather Leather 2 and Signature collections.


"We want to bring them as close to the bag as if they were in a store," said Stephen Grisanti, head of retail development at East Norwalk, CT-based Dooney.


A few rungs below French luxury retailer Hermes but in the same league as Coach and Ghurka, Dooney mainly sells finely crafted handbags and totes. It also has hats, organizers, diaries, socks, scarves, mittens and gloves.


Dooney.com visitors can view the collections in every color offered and zoom in on details. RichFX's swatching and zoom technology, also used by Neiman Marcus, Coach and Spiegel, makes this possible.


For instance, consumers can see up close how silver hardware looks on a brown or red handbag. Alternatively, they can compare brass hardware on suede vs. leather.


Grisanti said sites for high-end cars like Porsche had mastered the art of mix and match. This can work for brands like Dooney as well.


"A lot of people don't have the imagination, and what this has done is it's bringing it right to their screen," he said.


E-commerce accounts for a sizable chunk of Dooney's revenue, Grisanti said, though he would not be specific.


Privately held, Dooney has a factory in East Norwalk attached to the corporate offices as well as stores in New York, Las Vegas and, soon, Dallas. About 1,000 people work for the company.


The RichFX solution lets Dooney replicate the buying experience as in its catalog and stores. Another attraction was that the technology required no new product shots, relying instead on Dooney's existing inventory.


For retailers like Dooney, selling on the Internet can be difficult in several ways. First, they must operate in a channel that aims to sell without tactile aids. Next, consumers must be convinced that the merchandise, slightly upscale in Dooney's case, is as it appears on screen. Finally, the challenge is to show the details of the craftsmanship to close the sale.


Closer examination is critical for purchases like handbags. Take color, for instance. Black has been a perennial favorite for handbags. But more adventurous colors like brick, mushroom, marine, chamois and moss are increasingly popular. These colors are hard to represent online. Plus, it ultimately depends on the light settings of the user's computer.


Texture is another feature vital to the buying experience. Close-ups let users gain an idea of the leather's grain and even the stitches.


Still designed by co-founder Peter Dooney, the company's handbags boast a new logo and badge. There is even more detail like enamel coating, and the collection is lighter. The new zoom and color features aim to convey those experiences online.


"If you know the psychology of a woman who buys a handbag, a handbag to them is very important," Grisanti said. "It's almost like how important a car is to a man ... you'll see women standing in front of the mirror, like an old scale, weighing with the left and right arms. Weight is extremely important."


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