In its second-largest acquisition, Amazon buys the company for $970 million.
The chain launches an e-commerce site six years after it quit selling online.
Apparel and accessories retail chain T.J. Maxx, a unit of TJX Cos. Inc., this week began selling its wares online again, after selling only in stores since shuttering its last e-commerce site more than six years ago.
The online store, which can be found at tjmaxx.tjx.com, launched with a limited-time offer for free shipping on orders of $75 or more, according to the home page, which also features a store locator. Its departments include “just-in” items, women’s apparel and accessories, shoes, handbags and “the runway,” which features products from high-fashion designers at discounted prices.
TJX also operates retail chains Marshalls and HomeGoods, neither of which sell online. The company declines to comment on its plans in returning T.J. Maxx to e-commerce.
TJX reported sales of $25.9 billion for its last fiscal year, which ended Feb. 2, 2013. The company operates more than 3,000 stores in the U.S. and Europe, including nearly 2,400 in the U.S.
The news of its return to e-commerce does not come as a surprise—TJX CEO Carol Meyrowitz said online retailing was in its future more than a year ago. And last December, the company acquired e-commerce expertise when it bought discount outdoor apparel retailer Sierra Trading Post Inc., No. 102 in the 2013 Top 500 Guide.
“They really had no choice,” says Paula Rosenblum, managing partner of research and advisory firm Retail Systems Research LLC. “Wherever the final sale may be consummated, research is done on the web almost all the time.” She estimates between 50% and 85% of sales are influenced by the web, adding that retailers therefore must create a consistent cross-channel strategy.
For a retailer like T.J. Maxx that sells excess merchandise acquired from manufacturers and other retailers, connecting online and offline selling will be particularly challenging because it buys and sells in “sometimes odd lots and small quantities,” Rosenblum says. Indeed, the retailer’s web returns policy states that online orders are not eligible for mail-in exchanges, only refunds, due to ever-changing inventory. However, some online purchases are eligible to be returned in stores.
“With the holiday season coming, this is about as late as they could launch and not risk the site ‘falling over’ as a result of heavy traffic,” Rosenblum says. “Launching now gives them some time between back-to-school and the holiday season to shake out the bugs.”