November 30, 2005, 12:00 AM

Flowers/Gifts/Jewelry Taking a fresh approach to online sales

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That is willing to try new online merchandising strategies after 10 years of successful results impresses retail analysts with the site’s staying power. “There’s very good attention to product detail,” says Shari Altman, president of direct marketing consulting firm Altman Dedicated Direct. “It’s little touches such as getting a personalized greeting card and gift box right from any product page that makes the site work so well.”
Warm & cuddly, with a business edge


After almost a decade of selling online, The Vermont Teddy Bear Co. can feel warm and fuzzy about its e-commerce success for a very simple reason: It builds niche sites that stick. When Vermont Teddy Bear first took to the web in 1997 it brought along its eclectic assortment of stuffed bears and a personalized approach to online merchandising that proved to be a hit with online gift buyers.

Since then Vermont Teddy Bear, which generates annual web sales of more than $40 million, has taken that winning formula and launched four other niche sites, including its latest,, a web store that carries designer bags and accessories. Vermont Teddy Bear has developed a knack for getting it right in the ultra competitive online gifts space because its various e-commerce sites offer straightforward navigation and ways that shoppers can customize and personalize their purchase. The company also listens closely to its core female customers to launch niche sites that sell personalized merchandise at a reasonable price point.

For instance, at, customers who complete a purchase receive their order along with a free gift card and lip conditioner and delivered in a purse-shaped shipping box. “Women are terrific gift buyers who buy multiple times throughout the year, not just during peak holidays like Christmas and Mother’s Day,” says Irene Steiner, vice president of marketing for Vermont Teddy Bear. “We feel confident we can repeat the success with we’ve had with our other sites such as”

Vermont Teddy Bear is updating with pages in Spanish to attract more Hispanic shoppers and adding more personalization options such as letting customers monogram pajamas, says web manager Tom Funk.

But as long as Vermont Teddy Bear sticks to its proven web strategy and chooses its retail niches carefully, its web traffic and sales conversions will continue to grow, says Robert Antall, CEO of retail consulting firm LakeWest Group LLC. “Vermont Teddy Bear does a great job of enticing customers to their online stores via print and radio advertising, and more recently through successful online advertising,” Antall says. “They live up to their advertising by offering easy-to-navigate and customizable sites.”

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