Lee goes online

Even though Merriam, KS-based Lee Jeans has been around for more than a century, the $6.1 billion apparel brand didn’t have a consumer e-commerce presence until this year. Lee unveiled its first consumer Website in May, devoted to its young women’s/teen line. “We chose this line because it showcased one of our smaller brands and was a lot easier to integrate systems-wise,” says interactive marketing manager Alex McDonald.

Getting the site right the first time out was a priority for Lee, says director of advertising Liz Cahill. “We saw the competition out there and didn’t want to [later] have to redo our entire backend operation.”

In August the company added two other lines to the site — the Lee Authentics premium line and Lee Dungarees for young boys. The site was further expanded in October; it now carries about 90% of Lee’s complete product offering. The company plans to add two additional lines, Ms. Denim and Men’s Denim, to the existing site in the first quarter 2006.

On the technology side, Lee hired LaGarde, the Topeka, KS-based e-business software and services provider that created the StoreFront shopping cart platform. LaGarde customized an electronic data interchange (EDI) system to interface with Lee’s legacy system. This allows Lee to process and fulfill orders, create shipping notices, and update its inventory.

You might suspect that Lee’s retail customers, which include major department-store chains such as Kohl’s and J.C. Penney, weren’t happy to find themselves competing directly with one of their suppliers. But Cahill insists that disintermediation has not been an issue. “We have made sure that we never underprice, and we made our primary focus to drive traffic to our retailers’ sites” via the Lee Locator page, which helps visitors find the nearest store selling the brand as well as other online merchants.