Women who want the full monty can now get it on the Web at a new cybershopping mall called Zoom. In fact, they can get far more than the full Montague Burton group, now called Arcadia. The familiar high-street names are at the core of the site – TopShop, Dorothy Perkins, Principles, Evans, Racing Green – but Eva Pascoe (above) Zoom’s managing director says they’ve added the `best of breed’ brands from outside the parent company.
An impressive collection of `about 25′ partners was announced at Zoom’s launch on Monday in Arcadia’s flag-ship TopShop store in the middle of London’s Oxford Street. The list went from Amazon for books, HMV for music, Interflora for flowers, Littlewoods’ Index for household goods … all the way to Battersea Dogs Home. And to help generate custom, Zoom will be handing out CDs for its free internet service at all its 1,609 high-street outlets, with specially-trained `zoomers’ on hand to provide advice. It’s just like Dixons’ Freeserve, but in skirts.
For Pascoe – best known as co-founder of the Cyberia chain of cybercafes – the TopShop party is the culmination of two years’ work. She joined Arcadia as online marketing director, running the group’s various Web sites.
Sales reached £1m in the first year and are expected to reach £3-4m in the second, with women making up 75% of the buyers. Zoom has been set up as a wholly-owned subsidiary to grow the business beyond the fashion market. However, most of the customers will probably still be women, so Zoom is intended to be easy to use. `We’re talking about Dorothy Perkins customers after all,’ says Pascoe. `They’re not technically-minded, nor do they want to be. Zoom isn’t about technology, it’s about saving you money, and helping you to find the best deals, without wearing out your shoe leather.’ All this might add up to a somewhat pedestrian approach. The Internet is supposed to enable bright young start-ups to come in and take business away from traditional retailers like the Burton group.
Boo – started by Ernst Malmsten and Kajsa Leander, co-founders of Sweden’s successful bokus.com internet bookshop – is the obvious example, because it has just enjoyed a high-profile launch into the online fashion business. Boo has a sportier image and its brands include DKNY Active, Fila and Rocket Girl, but the businesses aren’t that far apart.
While Pascoe concedes that `obviously we don’t want to endanger the high-street brands’, she’s using every trick in the internet book to build loyalty in her online customer base, and Arcadia’s traditional businesses have skills she can exploit. It’s not just about creating web pages, it’s about collecting the money, delivering the goods, and handling the messy but inevitable drawback to the fashion business – returns. Pascoe says her online customers will be able to collect Zoom points in the fashion room, as part of a rewards scheme that will later be extended to the partners as well.
From July 5, they’ll also be able to use a `store card’ to buy goods, with a credit scheme backed by GE Capital. From September, they’ll be able to check their bills and pay online. Using a store card is seen as less risky than using a credit card online.
Also, Zoom will continue to use the fulfilment systems provided by the Arcadia Group. `We’ve already delivered to 131 countries including China and Japan, where Racing Green and Top Shop are particularly popular,’ says Pascoe.
`We will also be setting up in other countries, starting in France and Germany in September, and we may do a franchise operation in Japan.’ Perhaps Boo – which is starting as a multi-language, multi-currency operation – will ultimately prove faster on its feet, but it should be an interesting battle.
And while Boo may have landed the first blow by getting more publicity for its launch, Zoom is already ahead on points – when Zoom made its announcement, it’s site was already up and running, whereas Boo still only has a fancy place-holder. Zoom – www.zoom.co.uk Boo – www.boo.com Zoom CDs – which include Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 5 browser-are available free at Arcadia Group stores or by phoning 0207-636 8040.
Jack Schofield on the latest way to shop but not drop.
17 June 1999