May 2, 2005, 12:00 AM

Underneath.com re-surfaces

It’s not often that failed dot-coms get a second chance. Underneath.com is one of them. Underneath is relaunching, backed by underwear manufacturer Stone Apparel, which owns the majority of the stock.

It’s not often that failed dot-coms get a second chance. Underneath.com is one of them.

Founded in 1997 in the excitement of the dot-com era, Underneath understood early the power of the web in selling to a niche market. But the lure of big bucks was too much for founder Jeff Johnson and he took his eye off his plan for the company and looked, rather, for the quick money.

“My focus went off running the company and onto selling it,” Johnson says. “I thought with all these million-dollar valuations that were mind-boggling, I was going to capitalize on that.”

He didn’t, but by the time he realized that, it was too late. Underneath shut down in May 2002 after efforts to sell the company failed.

Now, Underneath is relaunching, backed by Stone Apparel, which owns the majority of the stock. Johnson will be Underneath.com’s marketing director. Stone Apparel is one of the world’s largest makers of boxer shorts, both branded and private label.

Because he was focusing on selling the company, Johnson says he didn’t react to financial setbacks such as the loss of the Calvin Klein line, which accounted for 30% of the site’s revenue. At the time, Calvin Klein wanted to sell its underwear exclusively at its own site, he says.

In addition, sales plummeted in late 2001, he says. “We never had any investors in our company,” he says. “We didn’t have any cushion of money in the bank and we couldn’t sustain our business. I think we could have survived had I just kept my eye on the business and not gotten greedy.”

Today, brands featured on the site include Calvin Klein, Champion, Munsingwear, Hanky Panky Thongs, Bali, Hanes, Maidenform and Just My Size.

 

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