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Furniture e-tailer turns lights out on e-commerce

After just seven months of operations, HomePortfolio closes its e-commerce business and says it is reinventing itself as an application service provider for the furniture industry.

After just seven months of operations, online home furnishings store HomePortfolio today closed its e-commerce business and said it is reinventing itself as an application service provider for the furniture industry.

HomePortfolio, which launched in February, has fled the retail Web furniture business at a time when the industry is being whittled down. Industry leaders are going out of business or are holding on by a thread.

Amazon.com-backed Living.com, for example, shut down and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month. Furniture.com, which attracted the most traffic of any home furnishings site, has grappled with mass layoffs, financial setbacks and high turnover among its executives.

HomePortfolio's vice president of sales, Rich Morrison, said consumers apparently need more time before they trust buying big-ticket items online, and that furniture manufacturers are wary of upsetting the brick-and-mortar companies that make up most of their business.

"The market, consumers special report: Apart at the seams and manufacturers are just not ready to buy online," Morrison said. "Our belief is that sometime in 2002, enough consumers will have become comfortable enough to shop online to make opening a Net furniture store profitable."

HomePortfolio will take on the task of building and hosting Web sites, creating online catalogs, and performing market research for manufacturers and e-tailers.

Earlier this year, the company attracted $48 million in third-round funding from investors including Home & Garden Television, CondeNet and Excite@Home.