April Cornell Pushes Memory Boxes in Debut Online Promo

April Cornell, a mall retailer of vintage-style apparel and home accessories, is taking fresh interest in its online store by linking it to a promotion running offline – a measure designed to boost the frequency of online visits from existing customers. A featured product will be promoted as pick of the month on aprilcornell.com and in stores nationwide.

Starting this week, April Cornell, co-founder of her eponymous company, will choose floral memory boxes as her pick of the month. Cornell's association is also part of a new strategy to identify her more closely with the April Cornell brand.

“This the first time that we've done this type of an event that would be both retail and the Web,” said Christine Powell, director of marketing at Cornell Trading Inc., Williston, VT.

Visitors to the aprilcornell.com homepage this month will see Cornell standing behind a stack of memory boxes whose prices range from $12 to $39. The boxes are recommended for storing everything from trinkets and hats to stationery or lingerie.

Clicking on the April's Pick of the Month visual takes visitors to the pertinent page where they can make the purchase.

Offline, April Cornell stores will feature placards of Cornell's endorsement on a display table featuring the pick of the month.

The memory box offer targets April Cornell's core constituency – career women ranging from age 25 to their upper 50s.

“We feel it's an opportunity for our Web customers to see April and we're hoping that it'll draw them to our site every month to see what her pick is,” Powell said.

Cornell and her husband Chris Cornell, self-styled flower-children in the 1970s, began their business peddling the wares they collected from their travels in the Far East.

Today, the 25-year-old April Cornell brand has grown into a company that designs, manufactures, wholesales and retails its own line of linens, apparel, housewares and gifts.

There are currently 63 April Cornell stores in the United States, with three more planned this year. The company operates another 29 stores in Canada under the La Cache name.

The company's online store is now in its second year, displaying its apparel and housewares collections. The products have a very Victorian feel. Many clothing items, for instance, are laced with petticoats and soft slips for a romantic and feminine feel.

“Our Web site is equivalent to one of our top stores,” Powell said, commenting on the sales, though she wouldn't disclose exact figures. “We have top stores in New York City right on Columbus Avenue. Short Hills [NJ] is another one, there's one in Montreal and one in Denver.”

Still, little has been done so far to stimulate online purchases via promotions or special offers beyond a $10 discount for filling out a survey. In fact, the online staff numbers only three people out of a 1,500 company employees.

In promoting April's Pick of the Month online, the company hopes this concerted push will give consumers additional information on the details or use of the endorsed product.

“It's [also] to bring the human side to things so that people have an opportunity to realize that there is an April Cornell,” Powell said.

In May, Cornell will endorse a combination of giftware, such as planter sets and vases. And in June, she will pick a collection of whites, including children's and women's dresses, and vintage linens for the bed and table.

“The challenge,” Powell admits, “is just to select one category and make it more noticeable.”

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