June 9, 2010, 10:42 AM

BowlingShirt.com goes open for a strike

The e-retailer aims for a sweet spot on the Magento open-source e-commerce platform.

To better support its growth and the services it offers customers, BowlingShirt.com is trying to strike a sweet spot on Magento Inc.’s open-source e-commerce platform. But the merchant’s launch on the Magento platform was interrupted, and it’s back for now on the in-house platform it built in the PHP framework.

The retailer, which does $3 million to $4 million a year in sales, emphasizes the sale of bowling apparel and accessories that customers can personalize with screen printing and other treatments. Its business model requires it to offer a large number of product varieties, which its in-house e-commerce platform hasn’t always been able to support.

“When we would add a new bowling shirt to our site, we’d have to take another product off the site,” Josh Shanas, director of e-commerce, said Tuesday in a session at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition entitled, “E-commerce platforms: The right choice at the right time.”

The retailer’s original e-commerce platform was built in the PHP software framework. PHP is a programming language that uses open-source technology and offers a flexible environment for making changes to web sites.

To provide a more robust shopping environment, BowlingShirt.com is working with Chicago-based Lyons Consulting Group to migrate its site to the Magento Enterprise open-source platform. Magento, initially developed by Varien Inc., is also developed by other technology consulting firms that use Magento open-source software code. Varien is now known as Magento Inc.

After BowlingShirt.com relaunched on the Magento platform for two weeks this spring, it inexplicably started showing operating problems, Shanas said. Basic operations required too much processing power, slowing down the site’s operation, he added.

The retailer has also been integrating its new Magento platform with several third-party applications, including a Constant Contact e-mail management system, a shipping management application and an enterprise resource planning system, but Shanas said he didn’t think any of these integrations would be enough to slow down the new site.

To maintain site operations, BowlingShirt has temporarily gone back to using its old PHP e-commerce platform until it and Lyons can get the new Magento platform working properly, Shanas says. Prior to choosing Magento and Lyons, the retailer had also checked out licensed software platforms but found them outside its price range, Shanas said. “We still feel open-source was the right decision for us,” he said.

He added that, as a small retailer, BowlingShirt wanted to work with a software consulting firm that would meet its particular needs—and that Lyons filled the bill. “We wanted a co-developer that would get our style, and they get our space,” he said.

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