Top French retail distributor launches Interactive subsidiary

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PARIS--Top French distribution group Pinault-Printemps-Redoute has formed a subsidiary, PPR-Interactive, which will link together the company's 30 e-commerce sites and coordinate the ongoing launch of a new portal site offering free Internet access, unlimited e-mail and various types of general-interest content.

According to company officials, the site is "a window for the different brands in the group," including cultural goods retailer FNAC, top furniture distributor Conforama, mail-order giant La Redoute and top-end department store Printemps.

The group's various sites generate about $15 million in revenue per year, a sum that could rise dramatically if PPR-Interactive succeeds in promoting them through its foray into the world of free Internet access.

DDB Worldwide's office in Paris, the PPR Group's main agency, will coordinate the launch, planned for early November. The launch will roll out with the distribution of free connection kits in PPR's 500 stores and sales points nationwide as well as a limited marketing campaign within the various stores.

A bigger campaign aimed at creating brand recognition and building a client base is in the planning stages and will likely be launched in early 2000, according to a PPR spokeswoman.

The launch will be linked to upcoming campaigns by PPRsubsidiaries, including telecommunications operator Kertel, which will offer a flat-fee for Internet connection to clients.

PPR is seeking a share of France's rapidly growing and increasinglycompetitive free Internet-access sector. One competitor, Liberty Surf, owned by the U.K.'s Kingfisher and French magnate Bernard Arnault -- who controls luxury group LVMH -- has launched a massive TV, print and outdoor campaign through Havas Advertising-controlled Le Nouvel Eldorado.

PPR-Interactive will be led by PPR Executive Bruno Cremel, a former government official.

Copyright October 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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