December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

A site that says style

Like its offline stores, is crisp, clean and contemporary. “You know instantly that this is very similar to their stores,” says Pamela Stubing, a retail consultant at Ernst & Young in New York. And that’s a merchandising must. Execution has to be different, but stylistically it should look the same. “Otherwise, why do it? You’re wasting your money if you have a different merchandise and marketing strategy,” says Stubing.

Navigating the housewares site is a breeze. No 10 layers of buttons and tabs for shoppers to click through. No perplexing signposts such as “What’s in Store” instead of “Shop Online.” After clicking through the home page, a horizontal navigation bar follows shoppers from department to department, reducing the need for back-clicking. Pages download quickly, but thumbnail product shots are still generous enough to see without squinting-or clicking to enlarge.

Besides partnering with Della & James, maintains it own gift registry, where merchandise can be bought online-whether or not it’s not featured on the Web site.

Some analysts criticize the breadth of offerings. In September, for instance, the housewares retailer only offered 1,500 SKUs, but another 500 will be up by the holidays, says Chris Segal, director of e-commerce at Crate & Barrel. Ultimately, he wants the site and stores to match, not only in looks but in selection.

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