Tech Industry

SelfCare.com gets $80 million shot in the arm

The online health products retailer receives equity funds and in-kind promotional services from investors including NBC, Women.com and Intel.

Online health products retailer SelfCare.com received a boost today in the form of an $80 million investment.

The Emeryville, Calif.-based company said it received the infusion in equity funds and in-kind promotional services from investors including NBC, Women.com and Intel. SelfCare plans to use the funds to expand its marketing efforts and distribution network.

The investment signals strong support for an outfit operating amid a tepid market. Publicly traded health-related sites such as Dr. Koop and Drugstore.com have seen their share values plummet in recent months because of doubts over growth potential.

"The investment is a huge vote of confidence in a market that's very skeptical right now," said Claudine Singer, a senior analyst at Jupiter Communications.

Nonetheless, analysts and investors believe SelfCare may be in the "sweet spot" for health-related goods. Because the company sells hard-to-get items--such as allergy-free bedding, heart monitors and yoga mats--all in one place, it has a greater chance of attracting and retaining health-conscious shoppers.

In 1999, online sales of consumer health products reached about $200 million, according to Jupiter, which projects online sales will reach $9.8 billion in 2004.

Privately held SelfCare launched its online store last July. The company originally published a magazine 24 years ago and started selling health products through mail order in 1983.

Despite the soft market, SelfCare is exploring an initial public offering in the near future.

"We're in the final round of working with bankers that are excited about the momentum we've got and our partners...and they're encouraging us to tap the public markets," said Larry Bodner, president and COO of the company.