Hanover Targets Customers With Style Sense

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Hanover Direct, Weehawken, NJ, has taken a 51 percent equity stake in customized e-commerce fashion service Always In Style, also in Weehawken.

This latest maneuver by Hanover adds to the public company's growing Web services division, which includes its Internet marketing services group and Keystone Internet Services, its fulfillment provider.

Always In Style will allow Hanover's catalog brands and other retailers to install an automated interactive process on their Web sites that gives customers personal style and taste advice using knowledge-based proprietary software.

"Consumers want simplicity and they want offers targeted to their unique needs," said Rakesh Kaul, president/CEO of the multititle cataloger.

Retailers who have agreed to participate in the program include Lane Bryant and iQVC, but many others will soon be announced, according to Kaul. Hanover's linen and home accessories title Domestications and its plus-size apparel catalog Silhouettes also will be part of the network.

In the future, retailers will have the option of installing computer kiosks with the interactive technology in their stores.

The service also will be available through the Always in Style Web site, www.alwaysinstyle.com, scheduled to debut before year's end. Fashion recommendations will include links to participating retailers' sites.

Under the direction of fashion maven Doris Pooser, who is president of the new subsidiary, Always In Style has published fashion forecasts - The Always in Style Portfolio, a 30- to 40-page full-color, twice-yearly guide - and has provided style consulting to consumers, personal shoppers and image consultants for two decades.

The Always in Style Portfolio will now morph into daily online editorial content at the new Web site.

Pooser also may offer its My Style Advisor on Hanover titles. It is available currently at QVC for $35 and online at www.iQVC.com. After filling out a detailed application and sending a photograph of themselves, women get a list of suggestions, such as clothing, hair, color palette and eyeglass recommendations.

Customization is not a new arena for Hanover. Last year it tested the concept with a comforter offered in Domestications, where customers picked their choice of fabric, color, ounces of down and stitching. Kaul said it was successful enough that it led him to the current agreement with Always In Style.

Hanover expects to add more partners to the mix. "Our plan is to offer this technology as a service to a very broad-based network of manufacturers and retailers," he said.

Hanover has a history of operating losses; its year-to-date losses for 1999 total $12 million. Continued losses may jeopardize its ability to make the e-commerce investments required to achieve a leadership position, particularly in providing fulfillment services.

Nonetheless, the Internet is exactly where Hanover is turning its focus. The company estimates 8 percent to 10 percent of sales this year - more than $20 million - will come from the Internet.

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