ESPN to sell sports merchandise online

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ESPN early next month will launch a major Web merchandising operation. The service will sell baseball caps, football jerseys, helmets and other apparel carrying logos of professional sports teams. ESPN will link with 1-800-PRO-TEAM Corp., Palm City, Fla., to handle inventory, pricing and customer order fulfillment.

ESPN, its Web partner Starwave Corp. and 1-800-PRO-TEAM will share revenue from sales of the site's more than 165 items.

CARDINALS CAPS IN SEATTLE

The merchandising site is designed to service displaced fans.

"It's not about putting a Seattle Mariners cap in the hands of someone in Seattle, but giving a St. Louis fan who lives in Seattle a chance to buy a Cardinals cap," said Geoff Reiss, VP-sports at Starwave.

Deployment of the site has been much slower than anticipated, Mr. Reiss said. Starwave had to create software and design the site's interface from scratch after discovering that no suitable off-the-shelf products existed.

ORDER VIA E-MAIL

Customers will initially order products via an e-mail form or an 800 number, with credit cards as the primary payment option. Later, Starwave will implement a proprietary commerce system for secure transactions.

Though ESPNET SportsZone is optimistic the site will generate a lucrative third revenue source along with advertising and subscriptions, Mr. Reiss said he was uncertain how much money the operation will bring in.

"There's so few real-life examples to forecast from that I'm not sure it would be rational to project what sales will be," he said.

Copyright April 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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