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Ethan Allen to miss out on holiday Net sales

One of the world's largest furniture sellers scales back plans to offer furniture online in time for the holiday season and will delay the launch of its Web site by a month.

Ethan Allen, one of the world's largest furniture sellers, is scaling back plans to offer furniture online in time for the holiday season and will delay the launch of its Web site by a month, the company confirmed today.

The setback is the latest in a laundry list of traditional brick-and-mortar companies that have stumbled while venturing into online retail. Last month, Wal-Mart and Walgreens announced delays in their online Web stores, as did Home Depot and Toys "R" Us earlier in the year.

As a result, these companies will miss out on what industry analysts say will be the most lucrative online holiday season yet.

Many experts have predicted that once the brick-and-mortar stores went online, they would out perform the "pure-play" e-tailer. But that has not happened. Analysts now say they suspect traditional retailers have underestimated how much time and expense is needed to build a well-run online store.

Danbury, Connecticut-based Ethan Allen has struggled to connect the more than 300 Ethan Allen stores worldwide into its online system, according to chief executive M. Farooq Kathwari. Company executives also want to ensure that online orders will not interfere with the distribution of existing orders, he said.

"This time of year, customers place orders so they are sure to get goods in time for the holidays," Kathwari said. "We didn't want anything to interfere with that."

Kathwari said in July that the company wanted to launch by September. Soon after that announcement, Ethan Allen executives revised the date to October. Now, Ethan will launch in November but will offer only home accessories such as lamps, pictures, and pillows.

The company does not plan to offer furniture online until sometime after the New Year, Kathwari said.

By comparison, Walgreens earlier this month announced it was delaying its site launch for a month and Wal-Mart, expected by analysts to relaunch its site sometime this fall, announced that it would wait until early next year. Last month, Home Depot also shelved its Web site plans until after the holiday season. In August, Toys "R" Us hit a snag when executives announced it had split with Benchmark Capital, an investor in