October 31, 2002, 12:00 AM

eBags learns to leverage what it knows and others don’t

eBags Inc. is selling web services to manufacturers and other retailers who want a web presence but don’t know how to get one. First customer: upscale luggage manufacturer Tumi Inc.

EBags Inc., one of the survivors among dot-com retailers, is taking a lesson from one of the other major survivors. Last month, upscale luggage manufacturer and retailer Tumi Inc. launched a web site powered by eBags Technology Services, a new subsidiary of online luggage and bag retailer eBags. The launch of Tumi.com marks the debut of eBags as a developer of web sites for other retailers, much the way that Amazon.com Inc. develops and maintains sites for other retailers.

Tumi, which operates 20 stores and for whom this is its first foray onto the web, will handle all merchandising, marketing, order processing, fulfillment and customer contacts. EBags will handle software development and site maintenance. “Our core strengths are designing world-class luxury products and knowing how to present the Tumi brand to consumers, but we don’t know how to build and maintain a web site. So we turned to the experts,” says Chad Mellen, vice president of marketing for Tumi.

Creation and maintenance of web sites is not the only outsourced service that eBags is offering, says Peter Cobb, co-founder and vice president of marketing of eBags. It also is leveraging its expertise in e-mail marketing to handle campaigns for bag and luggage manufacturers that sell on eBags.com.

“E-mails are an easy way for manufacturers to know who their customers are and keep in touch with them,” Cobb says. He says eBags will encourage its manufacturing customers to insert cards into all bags urging buyers to sign up for an e-mail newsletter that will also keep them informed of new products. Such a tactic is more efficient and allows manufacturers to keep in closer touch with customers than do the warranty cards that manufacturers ask customers to fill out and return. At Cobb’s former employer, Samsonite Corp., only 8% of customers returned the cards, he says. The ease of signing up and the incentive to receive a regular newsletter should boost that rate, he says.

EBags will maintain the list and develop and send the e-mails. Its first e-mail campaign went out last month for bag manufacturer Tignanello International Inc.

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