Women-Only Sports Site Shoots at $20B Market

With the number of women on the Web now rivaling the number of men, analysts expect a marked increase in women-only e-commerce sites.

Women’s online sporting apparel retailer Lucy.com, for example, has just raised $28 million (US$) from a consortium of venture capital firms in a second round of financing. Lucy.com says the funds will allow it to kick off an “aggressive” $10 million winter marketing launch.

Founded by former Nike executive Sue Levin, Lucy.com believes that women are being shortchanged when they line up to buy sporting apparel, despite the success of the U.S. women’s soccer team at last year’s World Cup and the overall increase in sports participation by girls and women in the U.S.

The funds will be directed toward a market that is fragmented and treated piecemeal by Nike, Reebok and other major sporting apparel manufacturers.

Women Spend $20B on Athletic Apparel

The Sporting Goods Manufacturer’s Association puts the women’s athletic apparel and footwear market at approximately $20 billion, with some 20 million women in the U.S. participating in sports and fitness activities.

Lucy.com hopes to snag a fair percentage of those participants and it says it intends to do so by offering a range of 450 styles of women’s sporting apparel. The company will start selling footwear in the spring.

The company also intends to upgrade the typical e-commerce customer service level. Lucy.com says it has salaried product specialists to assist online shoppers with decisions about the merits of particular products.

Be Like Mia, Marion or Karrie

The first step, however, is to get the shoppers to its site. To do that, Lucy.com plans to spend some of its capital for a “Friends of Lucy” network of well-known female athletes to endorse its products. With soccer star Mia Hamm, sprinter Marion Jones and golfer Karrie Webb netting a miniscule number of endorsements in comparison to their male superstar counterparts, the company should have no problem finding friends.

The Portland, Oregon-based company said the financing was provided by venture capital firms Oak Investment Partners and Maveron LLC, with additional participation from initial investors Sutter Hill Ventures and Foundation Capital. The latter two companies provided $7.5 million in a first round of funding.

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