Dresses Up is back in the apparel business after a three-year hiatus.

Retail giant Wal-Mart, Bentonville, AR, four years ago launched its e-commerce site, which included apparel. But the clothing portion of the Web site was discontinued in spring 2001 due to fulfillment costs and a limited product selection, spokesperson Amy Colella said.

Because “apparel” had been, and is currently, one of the more popular search terms on Wal-Mart's site, the company knew it needed to revamp the program.

“We used the time since the apparel removal in April 2001 to better understand our customers' apparel needs and leverage our fulfillment efficiencies,” Colella said.

Apparel was reintroduced July 20 with a wider product selection that includes classic and fashion-forward styles. A broad range of sizes are available, such as standard, women's plus, men's big and tall and junior's plus sizes. Brands include George, White Stag, Mary-Kate and Ashley, Levi's, Wrangler and Danskin.

Also, shipping efficiencies for online apparel orders have been improved between supply points and distribution centers.

A box on the apparel home page notes that customers who buy an apparel item will be charged 48 cents shipping for each additional item in the order.

Restoring the online apparel program “provides another option for customers to shop, plus it's a great vehicle for providing shopping tips, doing research online and it's a great gift technique,” Colella said.

The apparel home page includes suggestions for back-to-school shopping under the headline “School Essentials.” Another section, “Coordinated Style,” highlights a shirt, sweater and pair of pants that can be worn together.

The July launch is the first phase of Wal-Mart's online apparel strategy, and it will give the retailer a chance to learn more about what customers look for in online apparel.

“Based on the information we gather, we will further expand our product assortment,” Colella said. The company plans to launch a maternity clothing section this month.

Wal-Mart is promoting its online apparel offerings in-store through signs in the apparel department and TV spots on monitors located in various departments. The news also is mentioned in the chain's monthly newspaper circular and on's home page. E-mail announcements soon will be sent to registered users.

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