Boo is back for Halloween

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Date: Tue Oct 17 2000 - 01:51:17 PDT

[Clip n' Save: damn this makes me wanna come up with a new ergonomic for
FoRKing stuff. Mail your top 10 complaints about fork to ... RK]

>>Ms. Buggeln said, she became convinced that sticking with the
>>Boo name was the right choice when she learned that 35,000
>>people visit each week even though it has been inactive
>>since spring.

October 17, 2000 Is Ready to Rise From Ashes

LONDON, Oct. 16 Like the pointy-toed cowboy boots last seen in the
1980's and now making a comeback with a vengeance, fashion thrives on an
endless cycle of reinvention., one of online fashion's first victims, is banking on that maxim
as it prepares for its reappearance on Oct. 30. Beginning this week, the
new Boo is introducing itself with billboard posters and print ads in
London and New York that are unabashedly self-deprecating.

In the campy vein of an old horror- movie bill, one poster introduces
", the sequel" as "the site you've been waiting and waiting and
waiting for" alluding to the technical glitches that prevented the
original Boo from appearing on time. In a nod toward Boo's new owner,, which bought the Boo trademarks when the original
liquidated last spring after it ran out of cash, the poster promises: "A
brand new production! All new cast! All new direction!"

For all the tongue-in-cheekiness, reviving a name associated with one of
the Internet's most spectacular failures carries its share of risk, said
Richard Hyman, chairman of Verdict, a consulting group in London. "To a
lot of people, Boo carries a negative connotation. They say, `Oh, I know
Boo, it's the company that went bust.' "

Even though retailers ranging from Sears to Gucci have repositioned
themselves with panache, Boo's battle to win back customers is singular
in that its first incarnation was so short-lived.

"We're not talking about a company that's done a great job for 10 years
and now wants to reposition itself," Mr. Hyman said. "We're talking
about a company that's made a promise to customers that's taken money
from people and hasn't delivered. There is repositioning. And there's
bringing back from the dead."'s new president, Catherine Buggeln, is mindful of the mistakes
made by her predecessors, and is quick to point out the differences
between the old Boo and the new. "The original Boo was a victim of
overpromise and underdelivery," Ms. Buggeln said. The new Boo, the
implication is, will be the opposite.

Unlike her predecessors, whose youth and glamour masked their limited
retailing experience, Ms. Buggeln, 39, has spent 17 years working for
the likes of Bergdorf Goodman, Barney's and Gucci. "It's the first time
my age has been an asset," she said.

The new Boo is being introduced on a $1 million budget, a veritable
shoestring compared with the $44 million spent the first time around.
Ms. Buggeln concedes that the huge customer awareness generated by her
predecessors has eliminated the need for an all-out media blitz. "I am
doing this on their backs," she said.

So there will be no expensive stylists coiffing Ms. Boo's digital hair,
no high-powered marketing firms buffing Boo's image.

Instead, Balet & Albert, a boutique Manhattan firm, designed the ads,
which will run mostly in the trade press until they are replaced by a
broader consumer campaign early next year.

Even Ms. Boo, the computerized arbiter of cool, has suffered a humbling
dressing down. Now that she has squandered all her money, she has to
work for a living, is on a strict budget and meets regularly with a
financial adviser, according to a story line posted on Boo's Web site.

"We thought what would she be like if she really lost her job and her
company went bust," Ms. Buggeln said. "Wouldn't she be a bit less self-

Many of the changes are more than skin deep, and try to address what
some considered the root of the original Boo's problems. Unlike the old
Boo, which bought merchandise that it resold to customers, the new Boo
is not bearing the risk of owning inventory. As a portal, it will
feature some 250 of fashion's most coveted items ferreted out by a
loose network of scouts, who scour the Internet for what is cool and are
paid by the find. There will be products from Skim, for instance, a
German company that imprints customers' e-mail addresses on their
clothing. Rather than getting bogged down in the taking of orders and
shipping of goods, Boo will direct customers who wish to make a purchase
to the Web sites that sell the merchandise.

In one respect the new Boo wants to resemble the original: courting a
European customer base. The Manhattan-based Fashionmall bought the
rights to Boo, which counted about 75 percent of its customers from
outside the United States, as an entree to the European market.

For all its problems, the old Boo managed to attract 558,000 visitors in
April, compared with 208,000 for, according to Media
Metrix. Indeed, Ms. Buggeln said, she became convinced that sticking
with the Boo name was the right choice when she learned that 35,000
people visit each week even though it has been inactive since

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