July 22, 2009, 12:00 AM

Charming Shoppes keeps Figis.com, but gives ShoeTrader.com the boot

Charming Shoppes will stay in the food and gifts business after deciding to keep its Figi’s e-commerce site and catalog, but will exit online shoe retailing by closing ShoeTrader.com, the company says.

Charming Shoppes Inc., a multichannel retailer that specializes in selling women’s apparel, will stay in the food and gifts business after deciding to keep its Figi’s e-commerce site and catalog, but will exit online shoe retailing by closing ShoeTrader.com, the company says.

As part of an effort to divest non-core assets and reduce operating costs, Charming Shoppes, No. 98 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has decided to close ShoeTrader.com during the second half of its current fiscal year, which runs through January 2010, the company says. It also has explored the possible sale of its Figi’s food-gift business, which includes paper catalogs as well as the Figis.com e-commerce site.

Charming Shoppes entered into discussions regarding a possible sale of Figi’s, but was unable to get the price it sought for the Figi’s operation and brand, a company spokeswoman says. The company previously determined that the goodwill value on its books attributed to Figi’s had fallen and took a non-cash impairment charge of $18.2 million during the fourth quarter of the fiscal year ended Feb. 3, 2007, the company says in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Goodwill is an accounting measure of the value of assets other than a company’s revenue, such as the value of trademarks and customer relationships.

Charming Shoppes, under the direction of new Charming Direct division president Bill Bass, is also consolidating its e-commerce technology infrastructure. It recently starting developing a new, upgraded e-commerce platform through an outsourcing arrangement, and by this fall expects to have all of its core brands sharing a common e-commerce platform. Fry Inc., a division of Micros Systems Inc., announced this spring that it would build and host new e-commerce sites for three Charming Shoppes brands: Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug and Catherines Plus Sizes.

Bass, a former e-commerce executive at Sears Holdings Corp. and Lands’ End, is also the co-founder of Fair Indigo, an online and store retailer of apparel.

Charming Shoppes also plans to launch new web sites on that platform, though it hasn’t provided details. “Our objective is to improve customer conversion rates and to significantly increase our core brands’ e-commerce penetration during the second half of fiscal 2010,” the company says in the Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Its fiscal 2010 year runs through next January.

Charming Shoppes’ core brands include women’s wear brands Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Catherines Plus Sizes and Petite Sophisticate Outlet. As of May 2, 2009, it operated 2,272 stores. It operates e-commerce sites at LaneBryant.com, FashionBug.com and Catherines.com, but recently closed the online store at PetiteSophisticate.com.

 

 

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