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“Web-weaving”: an approach to sustainable e-retail and online advantage in lingerie fashion marketing

Ashworth, Catherine J. and Schmidt, Ruth A. and Pioch, Elke and Hallsworth, Alan (2006) “Web-weaving”: an approach to sustainable e-retail and online advantage in lingerie fashion marketing. International journal of retail & distribution management, 34 (6). pp. 497-511. ISSN 0959-0552

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Abstract

Purpose – This paper seeks to explore antecedents for online success and conceptualizes the stages by which a small-sized “pure-player” has achieved profitable and sustainable e-retail in the fashion sector by utilizing a multi-niche strategy involving an e-portfolio of five fashion-related cyberstores. Design/methodology/approach – This qualitative critical-case utilizes the in-depth interview technique and rich thematic data analysis to provide insight into e-retail development, with conceptualizations inductively developed from the data. Findings are linked to business growth, e-business strategy, portfolio management and entrepreneurship literatures. Findings – Findings identify a staged, evolutionary approach to transactional cyberstore development and outline 20 key factors for e-retail success. The “web-weaving” process is conceptualized: this strategic “e-portfolio management” approach identifies a multi-niche opportunity for e-retail, which spreads risk, maximizes revenue streams, utilizes knowledge economies/synergies across multiple-web sites, promotes customer added value and offers potential for competitive advantage and sustainability for the smaller-sized e-retailer. Research limitations/implications – This is an in-depth study of a single, long-standing e-retailer maintaining superior retention levels across an international customer base. That this enterprise bucks current trends by surviving (when 75 per cent e-retail ventures fail) adds validity to web-weaving as a sustainability strategy. Future research should explore this phenomenon within a wider inter/intra-niche context to further contribute to the enhancement of e-retail strategic marketing/enterprise development. Practical implications – Implications indicate that a (niche) e-portfolio strategy is perceived as defensible, from an owner-director perspective, for sustaining a fashion e-retail enterprise. Targeting multiple-niches via “web-weaving” provides a clear route to critical-mass and sustainability, which could prove a valuable lesson for many small e-retailers – potentially providing a framework for internet-strategy development in other marketing domains. Originality/value – This research presents a rich picture of how an e-retail enterprise, in a highly competitive/dynamic market, can develop and sustain transactional e-business over the longer-term – presenting obvious implications to SME retail/marketing management.

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