July 5, 2005, 12:00 AM

FigLeaves.com expands its U.S. base

U.S. web sales for FigLeaves.com could double in 2005. FigLeaves.com is close to opening its first North American fulfillment centers, including one in Detroit and another in Canada.

FigLeaves.com, a British-based apparel retailer, spent a full year studying the domestic business-to-consumer e-commerce market before deciding to launch a full-scale U.S. web operation. But now, more than a year into its launch, the move is beginning to pay dividends, says Ed Bussey, senior vice president of FigLeaves.com.

U.S. web sales, which totaled $3.6 million in 2004, could double in 2005, Bussey says. FigLeaves.com is also close to opening a pair of new North American fulfillment centers, including one in Detroit and another in Canada. “We will be heavily embedded in the U.S. in 2005,” Bussey says.

FigLeaves, which sells lingerie, men’s underwear, hosiery, swimwear and active wear online, is among a growing number of foreign web retailers setting up separate U.S. operations. Other European retailers also launching or expanding their U.S. web sites include YOOX SpA, an Italian company, and Boden Clothes, a British-based direct marketer of clothing and accessories.

Foreign retailers, especially web merchants with trendy European labels and other harder to find clothing brands, are finding a good market and a growing audience with fashion-conscious U.S. Internet shoppers. FigLeaves, for instance, is introducing a new line of Australian swimwear it believes will be a success with online shoppers. “There are opportunities to introduce new brands that aren’t readily available in the U.S. yet,” Bussey says.

Today, the company’s U.S. web site draws about 1 million unique monthly visitors, which is almost the same number of visitors coming to FigLeaves’ main site in the United Kingdom, Bussey says.

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