November 20, 2007, 12:00 AM

All dressed up and ready to go, Virgin launches a new e-commerce site

Virgin Entertainment will publicly launch its new e-commerce site tomorrow, showing off an expanded selection of apparel and electronics and store-like boutiques that group together products that appeal to punkers, movie mavens, Beatles fans and more.

After a month of quiet testing, Virgin Entertainment Group plans a public debut tomorrow of its new e-commerce site, VirginMega.com.

The site features more products, particularly apparel and electronics, in addition to books, movies and music. And it features the kind of boutiques found in Virgin’s 11 U.S. stores that group products around customers’ interests, such as Guys Rock, Girls Rock, Punk, Beatles and movies. To gain the flexibility to give its site the look and feel of Virgin stores, the company has moved off of the Amazon platform that hosted the Virgin site for the past six years.

“It’s about communicating to the public at large that we’ve changed who we are from a music destination to more of an entertainment/lifestyle retailer,” says Kevin Milligan, vice president of product and merchandising at Los Angeles-based Virgin Entertainment Group North America. “We feel the new site will allow us to communicate that more than a me-too site on Amazon.”

The new site will be more “Virgin-esque,” Milligan says, including rankings based on the preferences of Virgin’s customers, not Amazon’s. And the boutiques also bring a Virgin flavor to the site. “If you want to shop everything related to the Beatles you can go right into a Beatles shop,” Milligan says. “That’s not something Amazon was doing for us.”

The new site is hosted by Baker & Taylor Inc., which is primarily a book wholesaler to libraries and bookshops. Baker and Taylor hosts the web sites of some libraries and smaller retailers, “but we’re probably the first major brand that has gone with them,” Milligan says. “What we like about that is when you go to our site it doesn’t look like any other site they’re hosting today.” Baker & Taylor, which is based in Charlotte, NC, will also handle fulfillment of orders from the site.

Virgin plans to promote the new site with e-mail marketing to the more than 150,000 members of its loyalty program, to customers who shopped on the old site and through in-store signage, Milligan says.

The site features news feeds and links to Virgin’s social media site, VirginMegaMashup.com, where visitors can find photos of stars in Virgin stores, a blog and corporate information. The VirginMega.com site will get additional features, such as streaming video, early next year, Milligan says.

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