From the recent machinations within the Burton Group, it is clear
that its foray on to the Internet late last year is no mere marketing
exercise. Its six sites, all designed and maintained by the magazine
publisher, Conde Nast, are meant as a prelude to a full online shopping
In the past year, the group has acquired two home-shopping companies:
Innovations, the gadget vendor, and the catalogue and retail outlet,
Racing Green. Last month, Robert Klein, the former chief executive of
Innovations, was appointed managing director of the newly formed home
shopping development and sevices division. His boss, the group executive
director, Richard Maney, confirms that the Burton Group has plans to
launch, in the relatively near future, both catalogue-based and online
Initially, however, the decision was to launch the Burton site without
shopping. And it was for this reason that the Burton Group sought out
’John Horner (Burton’s chief executive) and I were very impressed with
what Conde Nast was doing,’ Maney says. ’It had the ability to provide
very exciting images. With no shopping service, we wanted to make the
sites as visually stimulating as possible.’
The account marks a major departure for Conde Nast into online contract
publishing. Until three months ago, its Interactive department was
entirely occupied servicing the Internet presence of titles such as
Vogue, Tatler and GQ. It had also created several advertorial adjuncts
to its magazine sites, for the likes of Rover/MG.
But the Burton deal was the start of something new. Since taking it on,
a handful of smaller contracts have come its way. Watches of Switzerland
is another to have just gone live.
’A couple of the Burton Group companies had a minor Internet presence,
but they had a flat, corporate feel,’ Dan Connahan, the editor of Conde
Nast Interactive, says. What his team has created, in just three months,
is around 1,200 Web pages for six sites: Debenhams, Burtons Menswear,
Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Principles, TopShop and TopMan.
The sites share a similar design and mix of content: a news section,
fashion and product information, a store directory, a competition, and a
couple of lifestyle features. Each site is an independent entity, with
its own Web address. Connahan’s department has been working with the six
marketing departments to develop the content and has taken advice from
Conde Nast’s editorial staff to target each brand’s customers.
’The TopShop site has a piece on Laura Bailey, who we feel is a good
role model for its customers,’ Connahan says. ’We’ve tried to understand
the culture involved in each of the brands.’
That goes for presentation too. Evans customers, for example, are
unlikely to be familiar with the Internet, Connahan says, so the site is
clean and unintimidating.
The sites have a monthly cycle, with about a quarter of their pages
being refreshed each time. Conde Nast is also harvesting e-mail for
Burton and collecting information from competitions and visitor
Just a few weeks online and the site has received a lot of traffic,
Maney claims, though he won’t give figures. ’We have several measuring
tools, but I don’t want to go into the specifics. The interactivity with
the customer and their ability to talk to us allows us to measure the
success of the sites. And we can track how many users are using which
The sites will be promoted in-store, directly to store card-holders and
with ads in Internet magazines.
Web addresses will be carried in advertising where appropriate. ’I can’t
see why carrying it would be anything but positive,’ Maney says.