February 28, 2006, 12:00 AM

Mutual attractions

Maybe it was the Valentine feeling in the air-a number of retail weddings took place as Feb. 14 approached.

IAC/InterActiveCorp, which bought Cornerstone Brands a year ago to gain online retailing expertise, got some more last month when it acquired ShoeBuy.com Inc. With annual sales of about $50 million, ShoeBuy, which has been selling shoes online since 1999, ranks No. 120 in the Internet Retailer Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites. ShoeBuy last year launched BagsBuy.com as a sister e-commerce site with an inventory of 5,000 handbag SKUs.

The power of online retailing is attracting more than just IAC/InterActiveCorp. In February, The Talbots Inc. bought J. Jill Group Inc., and affiliates of Bain Capital Partners LLC took Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp. private. The Internet will be important to the future of Burlington Coat Factory, says Monroe Milstein, chairman, president and CEO. “In fiscal 2005 we strengthened our online presence, launching a completely redesigned web site,” Milstein says. “We’re answering the growing demand for online shopping and creating a new source of revenue for the company.”

Bain Capital has investments in over 230 companies, including retailers Toys “R” Us, Staples, Brookstone, Sports Authority and Duane Reade. It paid $2 billion for Burlington, which Internet Retailer estimates records about $35 million a year in online sales.

In the Talbots/J. Jill deal, J. Jill will continue to operate under its name and will retain its headquarters in Quincy, Mass. Together, the two retailers will have about $160 million in online sales. Talbots paid $517 million for J. Jill.

Terms of the IAC/ShoeBuy deal weren’t released. ShoeBuy co-founder and CEO Scott Savitz and other key executives will continue to run ShoeBuy, Savitz says. IAC/InterActive and ShoeBuy will make a good strategic fit, he says. “In the end, we were impressed with how IAC/InterActive is able to reach a lot of consumers in various online retail segments,” Savitz says. “Both companies will have a good synergy.”

IAC/InterActive, which also owns and operates HSN.com and various Cornerstone Brand web sites such as BallardDesigns.com, FrontGate.com, GarnetHill.com, ImprovementsCatalog.com, SmithandNoble.com, TerritoryAhead.com, TravelSmith.com, HomeFocusCatalog.com and Alsto.com, is actively making online retail acquisitions because it sees business-to-consumer e-commerce growing faster than TV retailing.

Acquisitions were also happening among the companies that supply retailers. In February, store technology developer Datavantage Corp. acquired CommercialWare Inc., a provider of cross-channel retail technology, for $13.2 million in cash. The acquisition helps Datavantage move into the multi-channel world, analysts say. “This acquisition bolsters Datavantage in that it provides them with true multi-channel capability,” says Rob Garf, retail analyst for AMR Research. “It makes them no longer just a vendor at the point of interaction in the store and it allows their retailer clients a 360-degree view of customers.”

As part of the deal, CommercialWare CEO Donny Askin will leave the company to head up OrderMotion, a software-as-service e-commerce technology provider to small and start-up companies that CommercialWare acquired in December 2003. OrderMotion was spun out of CommercialWare before the acquisition. Askin says OrderMotion is not competitive with Datavantage/CommercialWare. “OrderMotion focuses on high-volume, low-ticket, low-touch retailers in the zero to $10 million range,” he says. “That is different from the environment that CommercialWare and Datavantage operate in.”

In addition, the Epsilon marketing division of Alliance Data Systems Corp. has acquired DoubleClick Email Solutions from DoubleClick Inc. Epsilon bought e-mail services provider Bigfoot Interactive last fall.

DoubleClick Email Solutions brings to Epsilon a broader presence in international markets and retailer clients including J. Crew, Buy.com and Patagonia. Annual revenue at DoubleClick Email Solutions is slightly above $40 million and growing at a double-digit rate, Alliance Data said in announcing the planned acquisition.

For DoubleClick, the sale of its e-mail services unit marks a move toward a higher concentration on search engine marketing and other forms of online advertising. DoubleClick acquired search engine marketing firm Performics in 2004 and it plans to soon introduce DART Search, a web-based tool for managing search engine marketing campaigns.

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