E-FILES: Lingerie ‘supermarket’ takes on US giants

Manukau-based lingerie site Jenniferann.com takes on the online business of lingerie powerhouse Victoria's Secret

www.jenniferann.com Many new retail Web sites dither over whether to present different versions to different countries. Manukau-based lingerie site Jenniferann.com has a simple solution: those entering the .com site get US prices and US sizes; those entering the .co.nz site get local prices and sizes.

The site, which began life about eleven months ago and went online August 1last year, now has up to 5000 hits a day, says marketing manager Martin Rotteveel. Because New Zealand banks couldn’t handle sales in US dollars, Jenniferann.com founder Jenny Hannah, who owns ad agency Millennium Advertising, went offshore for a solution, settling on US firm Planet Payment.

Although the fees it charges (set-up costs of $US3000 and US60 cents a transaction) might be considered high by some, Jenniferann.com was lucky: most charges have been waived because of the number of enquiries Planet Payment has had from New Zealand since Jenniferann.com launched. Rotteveel estimates it will take 12 to 18 months to pay back development costs, said to be about $80,000. Auckland Web creators Nadara did Jenniferann.com’s site design, with two people working on the 350-page, 1500-image site full time at present.

Jenniferann.com doesn’t have a warehouse and sends orders to suppliers after checking reports each morning. The company, which also employs two part-timers, says it received “incredible support” from lingerie suppliers, which had declined all previous online offers, says Rotteveel, but accepted Jenniferann.com because it had a proper business plan in place.

What about US lingerie giants like Victoria’s Secret? “We are taking them head on,” says Rotteveel. “What have we got to lose? You could say we’re dreaming at the same time.”

They’re not quite the same markets, however. “Not wanting to degrade ourselves, but we’re probably more of a lingerie supermarket.”

Nadara’s Aran Dunkley adds that Victoria’s Secret has a nice site but can’t handle the amount the amount of traffic it has and hasn’t the resources to revamp quickly. “They’ve done it with CGI,” he says. Common Gateway Interface is a flexible but limited — and now comparatively venerable — Web interface.

Jenniferann’s security is as good as it can be at present, says Dunkley. The company is making its NT/Active Server Pages and SSL (secure sockets layer) system “as watertight as possible”, but plans to move to Linux and PHP (an HTML embedded scripting language) for extra strength and flexibility. Nothing is unbreakable, says Dunkley, and Jenniferann.com concentrates on keeping privacy intact, with credit card numbers kept on a non-Internet-connected machine and encrypted email being used between sites. A bigger site is being developed in parallel for future growth, with intelligent routing planned to control bandwidth use. The company’s 2Mbit/s image server is north of Auckland, while the 1.5Mbit/s Web server is in the central city; the company chose not to have the server with an ISP as its dial-up focus “sucks bandwidth”.

The business is entirely online, though catalogues are “in the wind”. The clientele is 50% male, 50% female at present. Sales of menswear have been “incredibly slow” to date, says Rotteveel, though the lack of images when I looked won’t help.

A separate men’s site is being considered. Fifty percent of sales go overseas, with Australia the most common destination, though Rotteveel expects the local percentage to reduce “drastically” over time. Sixty percent to 70% of sales are in the 16-plus range. There have been no repeat orders to date, but Rotteveel says lingerie is a “considered purchase” that only happens a few times a year. The firm claims lots of sales in places like Te Kuiti, where there it says there are fewer good lingerie shops.

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