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East West Bookstore sets up new e-commerce site

January 7, 2005

For many years, East West Bookstore has been a successful brick-and-mortar retail operation. Their Mountain View, CA. store, which sells New Age books, music and videos, operates a six thousand square-foot retail space and reports revenues in excess of $2 million a year.

As successful as the bookstore is, until recently East West had no e-business operation. The company was leery of the expense involved, according James Conti, the store's general manager "We had not been able to afford our own e-commerce presence."

That changed when East West Bookstore was approached by Muze, which sets up e-commerce operations for existing businesses. Founded in 1991, New York-based Muze provides e-commerce infrastructure for Apple's iTunes, and Rhapsody. The company has created in-store solutions for retailers like Virgin Megastores and Barnes and Noble.

Muze got East West's e-commerce operation up and running. "They designed for us, with our assistance, essentially a pass through from our site to their store, in a way that makes it look like our store," Conti says.

By working with Muze, East West saved not only the expense of building infrastructure from scratch, but also the personnel costs required to ship orders. Muze holds the inventory and also handles order fulfillment.

"We don't become aware of it until the end of the month - we're not involved with the process," Conti says. Items that are sold in East West's physical store are sold online for about 10 percent less, allowing customers to defray shipping costs.

As an added benefit, the Muze store expands East West's offerings. Muze provides East West with an online inventory of about 25,000 books, CDs and videos, not all of which the bookstore already carries. "There are things they are able to warehouse that we wouldn't purchase because it might not sell immediately," Conti says.

Muze charged East West a set-up fee, as well as a commission on sales. "But we are making the lion's share," Conti says.

Although Muze holds the inventory and handles fulfillment, East West has administrative control over its online store. "I can manage it to the extent that I wish to," Conti says. "I can suggest titles and delete items I don't want, and I can determine what the shipping costs and discount will be."

Muze supplies expert recommendations about books and videos to post in its online store, and East West chooses which of these to post. The bookstore has its own in-house Webmaster and graphic designer to make changes to its Muze virtual storefront.

Conti says he has been completely happy with the Muze setup. "It's been a very service-full partnership," he says. "As a brick and mortar store, we've been dependent on drawing customers from a rather limited geographical area. The purpose of this is to reach beyond that area - worldwide."

Source: eCommerce

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