September 21, 2010, 1:36 PM

Pier 1 brings back more web options

It’s not quite e-commerce, but shoppers can check merchandise availability online.

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Pier 1 Imports Inc. has begun to offer customers new ways to research merchandise and check available inventory in stores. The move marks the company’s closest embrace of e-commerce since shutting down its retailing web site three years ago to save costs.

Earlier this month, Pier 1 put its available inventory online at Pier1.com and created a tool that lets web shoppers build and save a shopping list for their next trip to a Pier 1 store.

Beginning in October, Pier 1 also will enhance its web site with other features that will allow customers to log onto Pier 1.com and check merchandise availability at each of the chain’s more than 1,000 stores.

 

“Our entire merchandise assortment is now online and available for browsing and pre-shopping purposes,” CEO Alexander Smith said last week on the company’s second quarter earnings call. “We know that the amount of in-store purchasing influenced by online pre-shopping continues to increase and we view this development very positively.”

For now Pier 1 isn’t considering full-scale e-commerce. “Our initial return to online shopping will be site-to-store, which will allow us to leverage our store base without any of the complexities around payments and fulfillments,” says a company spokeswoman.

While not disclosing any specific numbers, Smith says Pier 1 shoppers like having more web options. “We are very excited with recent research findings indicating that already the number of visits to Pier1.com and the length of time spent on our site equals to and, in some cases, exceeds our competitors with full e-commerce shopping capabilities,” Smith told analysts.

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

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