June 9, 2005, 12:00 AM

How a 4-point plan is helping Macys.com sell more clothing and accessories

Apparel will sell on the web if retailers take the time and make the commitment to merchandise clothing and accessories that cater to their customers’ changing lifestyles, Macys.com`s Kent Anderson told the Internet Retailer 2005 Conference in Chicago.

Apparel can be successfully sold on the web-if Internet retailers take the time and make the commitment to merchandise clothing and accessories that cater to their customers’ changing lifestyles, Kent Anderson, president of Macys.com, told attendees Wednesday at the Internet Retailer 2005 Exhibition & Conference in Chicago.

Macys.com has increased its average order value to about $125 and the web store, a part of Federated Departments Inc., now attracts record visitors each year in part because Macys had implemented and executed a lifestyle-based apparel merchandising plan, Anderson says.

Anderson, addressing the topic-Dressing Up the Web: Soft Goods Get New Respect Online–says Macys.com apparel sales strategy is grounded in selling to four different lifestyles: traditional, neo-traditional, contemporary and fashion forward. “We sell in a way that corresponds with the way our shoppers see their lifestyles,” Anderson says. “Their lifestyles are also changing and our customers see themselves in multiple modes.”

Early in the Internet retailing experience many shoppers shunned buying their clothes online because they couldn’t touch, feel or put on the merchandise. Customers also worried about ordering the wrong size and then the hassle of returning merchandise.

But Anderson says Macys.com has overcome those obstacles over time by developing a four-part merchandising strategy involving offering the right assortments of merchandise, improving the online shopping experience, using fashion education as a marketing tool and simplifying pricing.

Macys.com’s web designers and marketing managers pay particular attention to using text and images that emphasize the latest colors and fashions – and portraying shoppers in an elegant or appropriate environment that emphasizes their lifestyle. “We create a voice for the brand,” Anderson says. “We make sure we merchandise the right manufacturer brands and our private labels in ways that create a buzz. We also take an educational approach that keeps shoppers aware of current trends and how they can create the latest ‘must have looks’ in apparel and accessories.

Rather than rely on too many rich media or interactive applications to sell clothes and accessories online, Anderson says Macys.com keeps its technology base simple such as using zoom photography and clickable swatches. “Straight-forward technology delivers the best return on investment,” he says.

To alleviate returns and expedite customer service, Anderson says detailed sizing charts are helping reduce apparel returns in some categories by as much as 50%. At Macys.com customers can also shop for merchandise by size, brand and other criteria and purchase online, but return merchandise to stores. “Using your multiple channels and paying attention to little things such as the right alignment of colors on the drop-down menu help,” he says.

Adhering to a lifestyles-based apparel merchandising plan is paying off for Macys.com. Macys.com shoppers, which are more than 66% female with annual household incomes of about $79,000, have increased their purchases of certain dresses by more than 300% over the last three years, Anderson says.

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