Wine Cataloger Uncorks Shopping Service at Web Site

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The Wine Enthusiast is expected to debut a revamped Web site next month that will feature new navigation methods and an automated shopping advice service.


"People can go online, ask questions and get all the information they need without speaking to a live person," said Adam M. Strum, chairman of Wine Enthusiast Cos., Elmsford, NY. "Every question that might be asked on the site is anticipated."


The Wine Enthusiast, which also sells through catalogs, targets well-educated, affluent customers with items such as customized wine cellars and high-end crystal wineglasses. Prices range from $4.91 for stem and decanter washing brushes to $5,300 for a custom-built wine cellar.


A more attractive site and easier navigation were the main reasons behind the revamp, which is the site's first since its debut in 1994, Strum said. The new wineenthusiast.com will offer more content and will have better integration with The Wine Enthusiast online magazine at www.winemag.com, which provides additional information and wine recommendations to consumers. The biggest addition, however, is the shopping advice service.


"The Wine Enthusiast sells a tremendous amount of wine cellars," said Ken Burke, president of MultiMediaLive, Petaluma, CA, a developer of e-commerce technology. "What we've done is built a wine cellar configurator, which will walk someone through the steps of building a wine cellar online. While you may not physically see it being built, you get all the options [that are] available and what the cost will be."


The revamped site also will provide a concierge service to help customers choose appropriate gifts for novice and well-seasoned wine connoisseurs, Burke said.


The company has begun promoting the new site by placing advertisements in its magazine, running inserts in its catalog and conducting an e-mail campaign using its database of customers.


Strum would not comment on how much the site generated in sales last year. He said the site was responsible for 21 percent of the company's overall sales in 2000, up from 18 percent in 1999. The site logs 200,000 unique visitors each month.


Last week the company dropped 1 million of its Winter 2001 catalog. The book features the cataloger's first-ever February sale. Strum said the sale is an extension of its January initiative.


"This year the response to our January sale was so unprecedented that we decided to extend the savings an extra month," Strum said.


The catalog has more than 1,000 items, and the average sales order is about $280. The Wine Enthusiast catalog drops five times a year.


The company also plans to debut a new catalog, Dining Direct, in April. The business-to-business catalog is geared toward the restaurant industry.

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