December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Wine site is no cellar dweller

With its distinct look and manageable business plan, eVineyard.com is a top-shelf web seller.

Vineyard opted out of the antiseptic tabular site design in favor of an aesthetic, yet user-friendly design-a design to match what it sells. In addition, this online wine seller brings a sound business plan to an unstable segment of Internet retailing. Online wine retailers face a myriad of shipping restrictions that, for the most part, vary state by state. eVineyard is working within those restrictions while still maintaining control of inventory and distribution and keeping a handle on costs. The company delivers to 27 states (accounting for more than 70% of the premium wine drinking population), and plans to be profitable by the third quarter of 2001. Gomez Advisors Inc. Retail Analyst Barrett Ladd says eVineyard’s “aesthetics are very vineyardesque.” The aesthetics cost the site some navigability, she says, but users are never more than two clicks away from getting anywhere. However, the site is light on content, Ladd says. There should be a graphic showing novices how each wine will taste, and the consumer reviews are thin. It appears they need to find a way to drive more traffic, she says.

eVineyard’s Vice President of Marketing Brett Lauter says the company recently hired a chief wine officer to boost content and add another wine rating system. eVineyard is not aiming to be as content-heavy as some of its competitors because it plans to “focus more on e-commerce than content,” he says. However, it will use the wine officer’s expertise to expand product descriptions. Packaging requirements prevent the company from offering gift wrapping, Lauter says. However, gift-givers can include a card with a personal message with the wine. The company also began offering bottle etching for this holiday season.

eVineyard looks to have all the pieces in place to weather the shakeout experts believe this segment of online retailing is headed for.

Evineyard.com

Portland, Ore.

Monthly visitors: 1 million

Sales: N/A

Went live: May 1999

Design by: In-house & CTR

OS: Pandesic/Intel

E-C Software: Epicor

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