December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

The peacock plays a Polo match

Don Davis

Editor in Chief

Retailers have the merchandise and media companies have the means for selling it, a combo that’s touched off a flurry of dot-com ventures. Fashion designer Ralph Lauren and NBC are the latest to team up. Their launch, Ralph Lauren Media, will tout the upscale designer via Polo.com.

The deal brings together NBC affiliates ValueVision International and NBC Internet, which owns the search and shopping portal Snap.com, to promote the Polo line and other Ralph Lauren products via the Web as well as broadcast, cable and print.

E-commerce consultant Elaine Rubin, who chairs industry trade group Shop.org, says the affiliation shows how powerful brands can leverage new businesses with online and offline aspirations. “Polo is a great brand, but doesn’t have many stores, while NBC is a powerful media player. They are leveraging both their strengths.”

Rubin thinks the matchup sets an example for the rest of the industry. “This will be a wake-up call for e-retailers,” she predicts.

The new company’s core initiative, the Polo.com site, is slated to launch in the fourth quarter. It will carry men’s, women’s and children’s apparel, along with other Ralph Lauren and Polo brands, the partners say. Under the deal’s terms, NBCi will make Polo.com an anchor store on Snap.com, while ValueVision will handle the venture’s fulfillment, distribution and customer service.

“Traditionally, NBC has been a very active investor and partner,” Rubin notes. “It will be interesting maneuver to watch.”

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