April 19, 2006, 12:00 AM

Online shoppers cotton to leather

After two years of flat sales, Wilsons The Leather Experts is growing its online business. Web sales rose 51.6% to $6.3 million in 2005.

Bill Briggs

Senior Editor

After two years of flat sales, Wilsons The Leather Experts Inc. is growing its online business. Web sales rose 51.6% to $6.3 million in 2005 from $4.2 million in 2004.

At the same time, however, total company sales decreased 9.8% to $398 million from 2004’s $441 million. "When we began the year, our top two priorities were to deliver consistent top- and bottom-line performance improvements,” says chairman and CEO Michael Searles. “While our top line did not improve as we had planned, we have been successful in delivering significant improvement in bottom-line performance.”

In its just-released annual report, Wilsons, No. 391 in the Internet Retailer Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites, notes it will keep on investing in web retailing. “We plan to continue to invest prudently in the development and maintenance of our online presence, with the Internet serving as an additional shopping format for our customers as well as a vehicle for building brand awareness,” the company says.

Wilsons, which sells leather outerwear, apparel and accessories, uses GSI Commerce Inc. to operate its e-commerce platform.

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