to Align With Store Merchandising Strategy

Gymboree Corp. is working on plans to make its Internet shop look more like its bricks-and-mortar stores as part of an overall attempt to boost online sales this year.

Targeting mid- to upper-income young mothers, the children's apparel retailer will relaunch its site,, in July to align its online merchandising strategy with the offline strategy.

“When the site was designed back in 1999, it was under a previous merchandising strategy, which was that Gymboree was going to be all classification driven,” said Susan Neal, vice president of business development at Gymboree, Burlingame, CA.

“So we're finding that it's not what we sell right now in the stores, which is more mix and match. We've moved back to that philosophy. Online, we're still selling by classification. Which means we're sort of forcing the customer to shop by pants or tops or bottoms or dresses, by category.”

With the current design, consumers can shop for newborns, girls age 0 to 3 and age 3 to 7, boys age 0 to 3 and age 3 to 7, toys and gifts.

So, if a consumer clicks on the girls age 0 to 3 tab, she is exposed to categories such as tops, leggings, pants and shorts, dresses and one pieces, swimwear, blankets, shoes, accessories and items on sale.

But this breakdown sells only individual SKUs — depriving Gymboree of potential cross-sell or upsell opportunities. The few cross-sells that do appear on the site often run below the fold, requiring consumers to scroll, Neal said. Plus, the cross-sells are thumbnail size.

By contrast, Gymboree stores in the past six to nine months have reverted to an earlier merchandising strategy where people shopped for products in outfits, Neal said.

“So consumers don't just necessarily go look for a pair of pants but they're more interested in what's that outfit, what do these pants go with? What berets go with that headband, socks and shoes?” she said.

“And that's the one thing we don't even do at all at our site. It's a disconnect with what's going on in the store.”

The new look calls for graphics of clothes draped on a child or just laid out together. The goal is to show consumers multiple looks.

“So it's a little bit like shopping off the mannequin in the store,” Neal said.

Small Pond Studios, San Francisco, will handle the online makeover.

Launched in December 1997, Gymboree's online store has undergone several iterations since. Each time, the online store tried to keep up with its offline counterpart's merchandising strategy.

In its most recent relaunch, displayed more product and added front-end technology. In addition, the Web operations were integrated with the offline division's back-end and pick-pack-ship systems.

Neal admits that Gymboree's online arm could get more support from the retail stores.

“We just really haven't taken advantage of the fact that we have 550 [U.S.] stores out there,” she said, “so that's what we're looking at in terms of what we can do there to really build awareness about the fact that we do have a site.”

Plans later this year call for bag stuffers, a sweepstakes, in-store signage and possibly direct mail.

The retailer experimented in November with its first personalized e-mail push to consumers who registered to receive updates from Though Neal would not disclose the results, she said more e-mails were planned.

“Right now our focus is on the major portals — Yahoo, MSN, AOL,” Neal said. “Other than that, the focus is offline.”

Gymboree's major challenge is that other than the Web site, it has virtually no direct-to-consumer selling experience. An earlier stab at a catalog failed because of the high product turnaround in the company.

“With Gymboree, because we don't have a catalog, I think it's a little bit more of a hurdle in terms of thinking about the fact that Gymboree does offer direct-to-consumer,” Neal said.

“[Consumers'] first reaction is, 'Oh, I want to buy Gymboree today but when can I can out of the house, when can I get to a store?' They don't automatically think, 'Oh, I can just go online.' So it's just training the customer to think about the fact that they do have this channel as this other method of shopping Gymboree.”

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