to Close Web Site, Catalog Operations

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The multichannel women's sporting retailer is closing its Web site and ceasing its catalog operations in favor of traditional brick-and-mortar retailing.

The company said it will close both operations Feb. 9.

The move comes 14 months after its online debut, three months after the start of the catalog and less than two months after opening its first brick-and-mortar store in New York. The company cut its staff by 60 percent two weeks ago, laying off 57 people.

Sue Levin, president/CEO of, Portland, OR, said there was an attempt to grow the business in three channels of distribution simultaneously -- the Web, the catalog and stores. However, that requires high capital output, which is not currently available to the company, she said.

"We decided to focus on the channel that we think has the clearest path of profitability, which is the brick-and-mortar," Levin said. "We expect to have another three or four stores open by this summer, and we're in discussions regarding the locations."

Possible locations include the Pacific Northwest, California and another store in New York.

While reports have shown that the number of online buyers has grown in record numbers during the past holiday shopping season, Web merchants are realizing that e-commerce sites can be just as expensive as running a brick-and-mortar shop.

Bill Dean, president of W.A. Dean & Associates, San Francisco, a catalog consulting agency, said probably relied too heavily on the Internet concept, investing too much and not paying enough attention to traditional direct marketing practices. He was surprised at the company's decision, however, to discontinue the catalog operation.

"I think they are making an error in dropping the catalog," Dean said. "The catalog certainly is a much better investment than the Internet because it has staying power and would have given them a national presence.

"They are going to become totally dependent on what's happening in New York, and if they don't get the foot traffic there, how are they going to drive people in who may be wandering by the store?" he said.

Levin said the company is not ruling out returning to the Web or its catalog operations.

"We're actively looking for partners and other low-cost ways to do direct mail, which could happen this year. Nothing formal is in the works, but if something turns up we will pursue it," she said.

In October, -- which sells sporting apparel, footwear and accessories for women 25 to 40 years old -- partnered with gym chain Crunch Fitness International to open a 900-square-foot lucy@crunch store in New York City.

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