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Apparel giant makes limited holiday appearance

The Limited will miss out on some holiday shopping season this year, joining a growing list of traditional retailers.

    Apparel giant The Limited will make a limited appearance online this holiday season, joining a growing list of retailers.

    None of The Limited's brands--including its namesake The Limited, Express, Lane Bryant, and Bath & Body Works--will open up online stores in time for this holiday season, Anne Marie Blaire, an Internet executive with The Limited's Intimate Brands subsidiary, said in an interview with CNET News.com.

    Victoria's Secret, however, is a major exception. The lingerie powerhouse, which is also run by Intimate Brands, launched its site last December.

    "[None of these other stores are] going to launch a selling site by Christmas," Blaire said. "Not every brand is suited to be sold on the Internet," she added.

    Although The Limited had not previously announced a schedule for launching its other stores online, analysts expressed surprise that so many of the company's brands will be missing out on this holiday season.

    The Limited is only the latest in a string of e-commerce disappointments. Not only are sites such as Ann Taylor lacking a Web site, but retail giants such as Wal-Mart have seen their e-commerce plans beset by delays.

    Last week, for instance, Wal-Mart announced plans to delay its Web store launch until early next year. Home Depot and Best Buy announced similar setbacks earlier in the summer.

    But The Limited and others risk losing out on what's expected to be a huge holiday shopping season, analysts say. The companies also risk lagging behind competitors that are moving more quickly online.

    E*Offering analyst Andrea Williams calls the holiday season a "missed opportunity" for The Limited, saying that the company's products could have fared very well. "A lot of those products are great gifts to give during the holiday season," Williams said.

    Blaire said that the company is trying to learn from Victoria's Secret's success online. The intimate apparel retailer, which jump-started its Web site in February with a much-hyped fashion Web cast, is scheduled to relaunch its site October 25 with a host of new features. Unlike most e-commerce sites, Victoria's Secret is currently making money, Blaire said.

    The Limited is also deciding on whether its other sites merit Web stores, Blaire said. "You have to take the time to make sure it's a brand-right decision," she said.

    But Barry Parr, an e-commerce analyst with International Data Corporation, said he doesn't understand the delay. Not only will e-commerce be big this holiday season, but also women--who comprise The Limited's customer base--are coming online in large numbers. As women learn to shop online without The Limited, Parr said, the company risks losing customers.

    "A lot of its customers are beginning to learn that they prefer to shop on the Net," Parr said. "If they don't serve them, someone else will."

    The Limited owns about 84 percent of publicly traded Intimate Brands.