February 28, 2008, 12:00 AM

eBags courts new designers and overseas markets

After selling its footwear and accessories site, 6pm.com, to Zappos.com last year, eBags is refocusing its core bags business with new features such as its Emerging Designers showcase, and new plans for growing sales in the U.K. and Germany.

It’s said that one of the easiest ways for a retailer to grow business is to sell more to the customers it already has-but that didn’t extend to eBags.com’s bid to push its winning bags and accessories business model into shoes. After selling its footwear and accessories site, 6pm.com, to Zappos.com last year, eBags is refocusing on its core bags business with new features such as its Emerging Designers showcase, and new plans for growing sales abroad.

“We took a two-year diversion with 6pm.com and we were probably ahead of our time with some of the technology we offered on the site,” says senior vice president Peter Cobb, a co-founder of the 10-year-old eBags Inc. “Ultimately we decided that we wanted to be number one or two in a $40 billion market we know as opposed to third or fourth in shoes, where other online retailers were already established.”

The Emerging Designers program is evidence of eBags’s interest in finding ways to grow that don’t require a full-scale commitment to product categories already dominated online by other merchants. Launched in 2007, the feature, accessible on the home page, showcases the products of up and coming designers of accessories and yes, shoes-but the strategy is to promote a designer rather than a particular product. For example, videos on the site focus on each designer’s personality as well as the merchandise. Emerging Designers also features customer reviews and rich media product imagery.

Under the program, more than 60 designers now display their full line of products on eBags. It’s a way to let eBags leverage the web to spot new talent and carry a broader assortment, according to Cobb, who explains, “Unlike a department store buyer who may only cherry pick one or two of the designer’s products, we give them the chance to display their entire line.”

EBags also is pursuing growth overseas, with further expansion into the United Kingdom and Germany. “We are planning to have a lot on our plate this year,” Cobb says.

mary@verticalwebmedia.com

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