April 16, 2010, 12:00 AM

Pier 1 Imports plans to return to selling online

After pulling the plug on its e-commerce site three years ago as a cost-cutting move, Pier 1 Imports Inc. wants to get back in the online retailing game. Though details aren’t set, a new shopping site is forthcoming, says Pier 1 CEO Alex Smith.

 

After pulling the plug on its e-commerce site three years ago as a cost-cutting move, Pier 1 Imports Inc. wants to get back in the online retailing game.

While Pier 1 has yet to release any key details, including a launch date for an e-commerce-enabled Pier1.com, the company’s return to selling online is a top priority, CEO Alex Smith told Wall Street analysts on the retailer’s recent year-end earnings call.

“For the time being Pier1.com will continue to be utilized for marketing and pre-shopping purposes, but at some time in the near future we will make a return to online selling,” Smith told analysts. “At this stage our plans are embryonic, but they are plans nevertheless.”

Pier 1 stopped selling online in June 2007 as part of a broader move to reduce overhead and concentrate on its stores. But now that Pier 1’s financial condition has improved, more resources will be committed to the web, Smith told analysts. “For a great many of our customers the web site serves as our first sales associate,” he said. “We plan to invest additional capital dollars into further improvements. Over the past year the number of visits has increased 19% and, amazingly, our dwell times are longer than when we were selling on the web site.”

In 2009 Pier 1 recorded:

  • Total sales decreased 2.3% to $1.29 billion from $1.32 billion in 2008.
  • Comparable-store sales increased 1.5% while the retailer closed 38 stores and negotiated rent reductions in 350 other locations.
  • Net income was $87 million compared with a net loss of $129 million in 2008.

In 2006, its last full year of selling online, Pier 1 generated annual web sales of about $16 million.

 

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