December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

A claret that says you care

By Nicole Grasse, T.J. Becker

Editor in Chief

Send.com wants its customers to say it with wine just as easily as they can with flowers. “It solves the dinner party dilemma,” says Bonnie Tonneson, an e-commerce analyst at Hambrecht & Quist in San Francisco.

That’s a relief for shoppers whose wine expertise is limited to red, white and blush. Shoppers select certain parameters (such as price or country), and Send.com deploys its network of specialty merchants to fill orders locally. The retailer’s gifts, which range in price from $39 to $750, can be delivered in two or three days.

Credibility begins with the home page and its classic design-a gold and blue color scheme with lots of white space. Attention to details carries through to the delivered product. Wine arrives wrapped in a white linen dinner napkin and sealed with an embossed gold emblem. Send.com conveys trustworthiness because its photos and presentation look so good, adds Tonneson.

Touches like that will be important as Send.com, formerly known as SendWine.com, branches out with a shortened name consistent with a broader gift selection. The retailer has targeted gourmet foods, seafood and steaks for expansion.

The beauty of Send.com’s business model is built-in flexibility, with prices that allow for higher margins. In fact, observers predict the retailer will turn a profit its first year-a milestone most Web sites only dream about. That should have corks popping at Send.com offices when it closes the books on year one.

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