April 7, 2011, 2:59 PM

Pier 1 accelerates its e-commerce plan

The chain aims to generate up to 10% of its sales online in five years.

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Pier 1 Imports Inc. is expediting its plans to resume full-scale e-commerce.

Pier 1 began in September offering customers new ways to research merchandise and check available inventory in stores. The chain, which discontinued e-commerce four years ago as a cost-cutting measure, also 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.

But now under a new three-year plan, Pier 1 expects to offer a full-scale e-commerce site by summer 2012 and within five years generate as much as 10% of all sales online. E-commerce is also part of a broader $200 million business development acceleration plan, says CEO Alex Smith. “We are excited that the three-year plan includes moving up the timetable for e-commerce,” says Smith. “Our strategic investments in technology will enhance analytics and improve existing processes and efficiencies throughout every aspect of our business.”

Pier 1 has already increased its investment in search engine optimization and added content to Pier1.com, the retailer says. This spring Pier 1 will enhance its Internet site with more options that allow customers to order and reserve merchandise online, but pay and pick up the package at one of the chain’s more than 1,000 stores. Today shoppers on Pier1.com can only check for in-store merchandise availability.

Without releasing any numbers, Pier 1 is seeing more business from its stepped-up Internet initiatives, Smith says. “The company launched in-store merchandise availability on Pier1.com and has seen a significant increase in incremental visits to its web site since the introduction of this new functionality,” he says.

The move to push up e-commerce is part of the broader plan to become a more viable multichannel retailer, says Smith. “Reinvesting capital into the business to maintain and improve its competitive position both in-store and through multichannel avenues is a top priority,” says Smith. “Capital investments will continue to fuel both the entry into e-commerce as well as the integration of the existing business model with new e-commerce functionality.”

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