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Gap online store opens

Clothing retailer The Gap has joined an increasing number of "brick-and-mortar" retail outlets breaking virtual ground with Internet franchises.

    One-pocket T-shirts and khakis have moved online.

    Clothing retailer The Gap has joined an increasing number of "brick-and-mortar" retail outlets breaking virtual ground with Internet franchises.

    The Gap Online Store, which launched today, features special Web promotions, an online organizer that keeps track of individual customers' ordering history, a "Virtual Style" outfit coordinator, and the retailer's signature simple look and feel.

    In the last several months, retail companies such as Sears, Bloomingdale's, and Wal-Mart, have begun selling their wares on the Net.

    The Internet holds some distinct advantages for retailers looking for an inexpensive way to supplement their traditional business. Online retail revenues are expected to reach $7 billion by the year 2000, by some accounts, and are not subject to the same soaring overhead costs as brick-and-mortar venues.

    In fact, some estimates place the cost of Internet transactions at two cents apiece, vs. a $1 price tag for a traditional sale. (See related story)

    Electronic commerce is gaining in popularity, despite some customers' concerns about giving out credit card information over the Internet. The Gap Online Store uses encryption technology to protect sensitive information, and also offers ordering by phone or fax.

    The online store's prices will be comparable to other Gap stores, except for the additional shipping and handling charges. According to Rebecca Weille, a Gap spokesperson, the Gap Online Store's advantage is convenience.

    "We see this as another great venue, a way to offer quality, convenience, and style to our customers," Weille said.