LESSONS NOT LEARNED

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MARKETERS: Brooks Brothers and bebe Stores

WHERE TO FIND IT: www.brooksbrothers.com, www.bebe.com

CRITIQUE: It's time to grease up the credit cards. The occupancy rate of the great Internet mall is nearing 100% as clothiers rush to get their fall lines online.

The pushcarts arrived first: a stream of small vendors hawking watches and airbrushed portraits. In '96 and '97, anchor stores toed the Web waters and Sears, Roebuck Co. , Bloomingdale's and The Gap opened online stores.

Holes need to be plugged. Where's Crate & Barrel? Where did the Laura Ashley site go? Why can we buy stuff from Martha Stewart, not Williams-Sonoma?

But the midsize companies are gearing up for the season. Stores like Brooks Brothers and bebe are rolling out their sites and none too soon.

While we won't take these two sites apart bit by bit, we will say the limits being pushed have nothing to do with technology or design. Their purpose is to max the limit of your credit card.

Are the sites reflective of the brand? More or less. Will consumers shell out $598 for a herringbone cashmere sportcoat after "trying on" an image file? Or $49 for a bebe backpack? Perhaps.

Have these sites learned from their predecessors? Sadly, no. While the shopping cart apps have gotten a bit more functional, the sites overall lack the innovation one expects from a latecomer.

WHO CREATED THEM: Bowne Internet Solutions, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., for Brooks Brothers, and Lambesis, San Diego, and bebe in-house for bebe

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