December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Skivvies site soars

You’d never know by looking at the site that underneath.com has only six employees-and that the owner designed the site using “Front Page for Dummies” as a guide. The high-quality graphics, the ton of product (2,000 SKUs), the fashion show and the “Fun things to do in your underwear” section are all features you’d expect at a much larger site. But then Jeffrey Johnson, Underneath.com’s president and founder, has a knack for making the site look bigger than it is. For instance, he garnered a lot of publicity this fall when he received an offer to sell the company, then posted the site at e-bay hoping, he said, to get more offers. When no further bids materialized, he admitted he never expected to get any anyway. And what can you say about a company that issues a press release touting that it is giving underwear to the homeless? A serious issue, certainly, but also a great way to gain more publicity.

But Johnson also has stuck to the basics of web retailing in building a successful site. He has forged links to more than 15,000 other web sites through affiliate programs. Those links provide 15% of underneath’s sales. In addition, he has worked the search engines well, developing a clear understanding of how to use search engines effectively and efficiently. Sixty percent of underneath’s sales come in through search engines. And Underneath sends out 25,000 email newsletters a month.

Anyone shopping for underwear who can’t find it at underneath.com has some pretty specialized tastes. The home page lists 20 men’s brands, 16 women’s brands and Jockeys for children. Each brand has multiple styles. The site is extremely easy to navigate and its pages download rapidly. High-quality graphics and attractive models make the site a pleasant shopping experience.

On top of all that, the site is profitable. Which is probably what attracted the yet-unnamed suitor.

Underneath.com

Atlanta, Ga.

Monthly visitors: 320,000

Sales: $1 million +

Went live: December 1997

Design by: In-house

OS: Windows NT

E-C Software: PDG Software

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