October 24, 2008, 12:00 AM

Patagonia points shoppers to other web sites—one expert says that`s smart

Outdoor apparel retailer and branded manufacturer Patagonia allows customers to click through to other retail web sites to purchase items that are out of stock. One expert recommends other branded manufacturers that sell online do the same.

A consumer shopping on the retail site of branded manufacturer and retailer Patagonia Inc. for an extra large navy blue fleece likely doesn’t care if he buys the item on that site or from another e-retailer. In most cases, the shopper will be just as happy purchasing that item-permitted it’s the same price and ships just as quickly-at another e-commerce site.

That’s why Patagonia allows customers to click through to other retail web sites, such as Moosejaw Mountaineering, when a product a consumer wants to buy is out of stock. That’s smart, said Mary Brett Whitfield, senior vice president at TNS Retail Forward, in a session “Multi-Channel Best Practices” at the TNS Retail Forward 2008 Strategic Outlook Conference in Chicago this week.

Whitfield says if shoppers can get such information from Patagonia they will come there to shop first because they’ll see the outdoor apparel retailer as more than a merchant but a service provider as well. She recommends branded manufacturers that sell directly to consumers online leverage their partnerships with other online merchants, which sell the manufacturers’ goods, to offer this service.

Patagonia Inc. is No. 279 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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