April 16, 2003, 12:00 AM

With Sparks.com acquisition, Flax hopes to create incremental sales

Flax Art & Design has acquired card and gift retailer Sparks.com. Flax plans to offer Flax gifts and gift certificates at Sparks.com and eventually create a post-checkout link to Sparks.com at Flax’s three web sites.

Brisbane, CA-based Flax Art & Design has acquired card and gift retailer Sparks.com. Flax plans to offer Flax gifts and gift certificates at Sparks.com and eventually create a post-checkout link to Sparks.com at Flax’s three sites so shoppers can easily buy cards to go with gifts, Martin McLanan, an executive officer with Flax, tells InternetRetailer.com. Sparks.com offers 10,000 greeting cards and an assortment of gifts, sweets and flowers.

McLanan says Flax was attracted to Sparks by the complementary nature of the product offerings and by the opportunity to acquire customers. “Sparks has a fair amount of awareness and a high degree of brand loyalty among its customers,” he says. “The big thing is the opportunity for incremental sales relative to our existing properties.”

Flax last year bought leather goods retailer T. Shipley and Reliable Home Office, which sells office accessories and desks to small businesses. Unlike the Sparks acquisition, T. Shipley and Reliable Home Office are intended to be stand-alone businesses whose products and customers are not necessarily integrated into the Flax business. “The good thing about Reliable Home Office is that its business is counter-cyclical,” McLanan says. “Any gift retailer is always looking for ways to generate sales outside of the fourth quarter.” However, Flax will leverage its fulfillment and customer service operations with those two companies, McLanan says.

Once the post-checkout Sparks.com links are proven at Flax’s sites, the company plans to offer such links to other retailers on an affiliate basis, McLanan says. “Retailers are always looking for those kinds of things that create incremental sales,” he says. “We think it makes a lot of sense to be able to offer customers a card to go with the gift they just bought.”

Flax also will explore ways that the Sparks products can be introduced into Flax’s retail store in San Francisco.

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