December 17, 2007, 12:00 AM

Former Yahoo executives launch luxury shopping service ViaLuxe.com

Co-founders Lawrence Kosick and Ned Taylor rode the Internet wave and cashed out of Yahoo in 2003. They’re back online with a new web site targeting the luxury market.

Two former Yahoo executives, Lawrence Kosick and Ned Taylor are behind a new luxury product shopping service, ViaLuxe.com, which recently launched online in beta.

The site provides information on luxury brands and the dealers authorized to sell them. Many of those brands are not sold online at present, but that’s likely to change as the result of the success of online jewelry sites like BlueNile.com, Kosick says.

With the advent of online buying, “You don’t see that many small independent offline bookstores or computer stores now,” he says. “We believe that we are going to see some of the same trends happening in this category.”

Kosick joined Yahoo in the late 90s as the company’s first West Coast sales representative, eventually becoming vice president of global alliances before leaving Yahoo in 2003. Co-founder Taylor was initially in business development at Yahoo, eventually rising to the position of senior director of business development before leaving Yahoo the same year.

ViaLuxe.com is focused on helping consumers research and purchase luxury watch and jewelry brands at authorized dealers. At the present time the site’s not e-commerce enabled, though Kosick expects that to change early next year. The site’s offering to consumers is extensive content gleaned from blogs, product reviews, and manufacturer product descriptions on the more than 50,000 luxury items listed.

The other distinguishing feature of the site is that it indexes brand-authorized dealers only, currently about 4,000 of them. Its web crawlers are directed to gather content from and index only authorized sites, which excludes so-called "gray-market” sellers, including those selling on eBay and Amazon. The idea is to give those researching and buying luxury products on the Internet a safe environment for finding and buying the high-ticket items.

Kosick defines “gray market” sellers as any not authorized by a brand to sell directly online. In the high-end jewelry and watch market, most top brand manufacturers don’t permit direct sales of current, in-season merchandise online, Kosick says. Gray-market purchases may raise issues over warranties and authenticity, he says.

Top-end watch and jewelry brands offered online are often there as the result of those manufacturers liquidating older stock, which is acquired offline and then sold online by third parties, Kosick says. ViaLuxe.com directs visitors searching for where to buy a product to brand manufacturer sites, where the manufacturer has a site, and to offline dealers, including the traditional corner jewelry stores, providing names, telephone numbers, addresses and hours of operation where those stores don’t have an online presence. The manufacturer sites may have a dealer locator feature directing searchers to authorized offline dealers; ViaLuxe also has a dealer locator feature directing shoppers to authorized dealers.

The luxury brand manufacturers don’t pay to be on ViaLuxe.com. The site plans initially to generate revenue from selling market data to luxury brand manufacturers about the online audience as captured through consumer traffic to ViaLuxe.com. That includes data on who is searching for which of their products, when, and other information. The site will later move to a transactional model when it begins offering products for sale.

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