Boo.com fashions itself a second try

The hip British fashion site, which closed its doors in May, will re-emerge sometime late next month, according to Ben Narasin, chief executive of parent company Fashionmall.com.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
3 min read
Boo.com is set to rise from the grave, but does it stand a ghost of a chance?

The hip British fashion site, which closed its doors in May, will re-emerge sometime late next month, said Ben Narasin, chief executive of Fashionmall.com, which recently acquired the company.

Boo.com is set to return as more of an apparel portal than an online store, Narasin told a group of online merchants at the eTail2000 conference in New York this week. Narasin declined to give specifics, but he did say that Boo.com will not carry any inventory. The new site will instead link online shoppers to manufacturers, much in the way Fashionmall operates.

In June, New York-based Fashionmall bought the rights to Boo.com's domain name; the magazine it published, called Boom; and other branded content. Narasin said he saw value in the company's reputation as the Internet's house of style.

"Boo's (name) is synonymous with online fashion," Narasin said. "The company spent a lot of money building its brand and reputation. They attracted customers who weren't afraid to spend a lot of money--indeed the elite of Europe and the rest of the world. We are going to deliver what those customers were looking for."

But Fashionmall is trying to breathe life into one of the largest casualties of the recent e-commerce purge.

After the company squandered $135 million in less than a year, Boo.com's name in some quarters has become associated more with folly than with flair.

Before the site even launched, Boo.com began a marketing campaign that pushed the company's name globally. The site had garnered more press than companies that were in business for years. The message was always the same: Boo was chic, Boo was for the elite, and Boo was destined to turn the fashion industry on its head.

But just six months after the launch, the company burned through its cash about the same time investors had grown weary of e-commerce companies. Stock valuations for most online retailers had plunged. Boo.com's investors opted to pull the plug on the company rather than try to save it.

Kate Buggeln, Boo.com's newly named president, said she is dismissing all that as ancient Net history.

Besides, while analysts and techno-geeks know of Boo.com's troubles, she said, most of its everyday customers are not concerned with such things.

"Susie Shopper doesn't care about that stuff," said Buggeln, who estimates that 65 percent of Boo.com's customers are from Europe. "She probably never even shopped at Boo. Boo is just some place she heard was cool, a chic place to shop."

But in the end, Special report: End of the Beginningthe world's hipsters will probably be the ones who have the biggest effect on Boo.com's second chance.

Barrett Ladd, a retail analyst at Net research company Gomez, said other companies that have had troubles in the past, such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Guess, have been able to rebuild their brands and make them appealing to younger shoppers.

"Fashionmall can leverage the Boo name, but only with a Web site that offers worthwhile content will it attract the same customers," Ladd said. "The new Boo site has to offer the merchant the kind of merchandise that Boo's former customers are seeking."