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Ethan Allen online store debuts after rocky start

After experiencing brief technical problems, the online store of furniture and home accessory giant Ethan Allen goes live, joining a parade of brick-and-mortar retailers' online efforts.

After experiencing technical problems this morning, the online store of furniture and home accessory giant Ethan Allen goes live, joining a parade of brick-and-mortar retailers' online efforts.

The newly designed Web site, which was expected to debut several times last year, launched today with sporadic technical problems. During approximately 10 a.m. and 3 p.m PST, visitors to the site who tried to purchase items were met with a message that read: "We're sorry, but we're currently unable to process this request."

Ethan Allen spokeswoman Kelly Maicon acknowledged the site difficulties, saying, "We've experienced a high volume in traffic that has sporadically impacted the performance of the site."

Like so many traditional retailers that opened Web stores last year, Ethan Allen struggled constructing its site. Ethan Allen chief executive M. Farooq Kathwari acknowledged in October that the Danbury, Connecticut-based company had trouble connecting the more than 300 Ethan Allen stores to its online system. The company missed its goal of launching in time for the holiday season.

Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us and Home Depot were among the companies that suffered delays in launching new or redesigned sites last year.

Ethan Allen wanted the site's launch to kick off the first step of its Web expansion. In addition to the redone Ethanallen.com, the company also equipped each of its brick-and-mortar stores with Internet access and announced plans to sell furniture online sometime later this year.

Like so many retailers, Ethan Allen's is striving to build a "clicks-and-mortar" strategy that will prevent Internet sales from cutting into its core brick-and-mortar business.

The revamped site allows customers to view Ethan Allen's entire inventory online. Consumers can create and print out "wish lists" to help plan purchases at Ethan Allen brick-and-mortar stores. They can also log on to the site to apply for financing through the company's new credit plan.