April 5, 2013, 11:42 AM

E-retailer Bluefly seeks new funding as it struggles to survive

Negotiations are underway to secure financing or a possible sale, the e-retailer says.

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Bluefly's ongoing discussions about its financial health has delayed its 2012 annual report.

Bluefly Inc. has delayed its 2012 annual report as the e-retailer attempts to settle questions surrounding its finances and a possible sale, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

In the filing posted Tuesday, Bluefly, No. 179 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 guide with an estimated $97.0 million in 2011 sales, said it needs additional capital, and that it is in active discussions to secure that funding and it is evaluating strategic alternatives under the direction of a special committee and an independent financial advisor. Strategic alternatives often involve a sale or similar ownership transfers. If the discussions fail, Bluefly warns the company’s operations could be in jeopardy.

It advises in the filing that its 2012 loss will be between $24 million and $25 million, more than twice the $11.4 million loss for 2011. Bluefly attributes the increased loss to costs from changing its product mix, decreases in average order size and lower profit margins. In January, Bluefly adopted a strategy aimed at reversing the loss of sales to online flash-sale retailers by bolstering the connection between Bluefly.com and its own flash-sale site, Belle & Clive. In June 2012, it hired Scott Erdman, who had worked at flash-sale site Swirl by Daily Candy, as senior vice president of merchandising.

Bluefly says because of the discussions aimed at raising funds it is unable to file its annual report for fiscal 2012, which ended Dec. 31, a report typically due 90 days after the end of the reporting period. Bluefly has until April 15 to file the report with the SEC, a Bluefly spokesman says.

Bluefly’s situation puzzles Forrester Research Inc. analyst Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali. “I really don’t understand how that company was a peer of the hottest subsector in e-commerce in the last few years—flash sales—but could never manage to crack $150 million in annual sales,” says Mulpuru-Kodali. “It speaks to what was probably a problematic technology platform, poor to nonexistent relations with brands, weak leadership and no strategic vision.”

In February, Bluefly said because its stock had traded at less than $1 for at least 30 consecutive days, under Nasdaq rules, the stock could be delisted from the stock market. Bluefly has until Aug. 14 to push its stock above $1 for at least 10 consecutive days. Bluefly’s stock closed at 75 cents Thursday with no trading early Friday. It last traded above $1 when it closed at $1.03 on Jan. 2.

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