December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Retailers are saying "I do" to this bridal registry site

The latest entry in the online wedding gift business, Dellajames.com marched up the aisle in June to a $4 million fanfare of print and Web advertising.

Starry-eyed at the prospect of access to more than 350,000 brides through Dellajames.com, retailers are lining up to this gift registry faster than groomsmen hit the cocktail bar.

But this isn’t the typical marriage witnessed in the wedding registry arena. Unlike competitors WeddingChannel.com, which partners with the Federated Department Store group, and WeddingNetwork.com, which contracts primarily with catalog merchants, Dellajames.com has managed to woo, win and bring under one roof a variety of big-name retailers.

Wedding guests can access a couple’s registry on the Web site, viewing, selecting and shipping wedding gifts without ever setting foot in a store. Brides and grooms can even use the site to create their own personal Web site, listing dates, times and other wedding-day particulars. But here’s what really sets Dellajames.com apart from competitors: brides registered on the site can assemble their wish list from a variety of national stores such as Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma and Neiman Marcus, along with local favorites such as Gump’s in San Francisco and Portico in New York.

Dellajames.com tracks gift purchases made either in store or via the Web in one place so the registry is always up to date. What’s more, couples can manage their own registry. “That really means they have the ability to edit their list,” says Jenny Lefcourt, company co-founder. “If Mom calls and says you really need more of something, or if your registry is running low, you can add to it online.”

With what one analyst called “tons” of gift registry sites starting to flood e-commerce, what will distinguish the matches made in heaven from the also-rans at shake-out time? Pam Stubing, a retail analyst with Ernst & Young in New York, offers a formula for success (which is how some would also describe the ideal spouse): “Deep pockets and a strong partner.”

Della & James seems to have both requirements covered. The brainchild of Lefcourt and Stanford University Business School classmate Jessica DiLullo, Della & James garnered an initial $1 million in venture capital in 1998 from Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, which also funded America Online, Amazon.com and Netscape. Another $4 million followed early this year, and the company expects to close a third round of financing for an undisclosed amount in September. Other backers include Trinity Ventures, which helped get Starbucks off the ground.

What romances backers is the company’s business model. By assembling several prominent retailers on one site, Della & James can leverage the combined brand equity into a formidable online presence. And except for system integration charges-pass-through charges that vary depending on what technology the retailer has in place-retailers pay Della & James for performance only with a percentage of each sales transaction.

Attracting retailers is exposure. Besides the 350,000-plus database it built from the existing registries of its partners, Della & James has added 50,000 names of its from couples registering directly on the site. Retailers also benefit from being featured in the online registry’s advertising and promotions.

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