Catherine J. Ashworth (Retail Management Subject Group, Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, Manchester, UK)
Ruth Ä. Schmidt (Retail Management Subject Group, Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, Manchester, UK)
Elke A. Pioch (Retail Management Subject Group, Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, Manchester, UK)
Alan Hallsworth (University of Surrey, Guilford, UK)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Publication date: 1 June 2006



This paper seeks to explore antecedents for online success and conceptualizes the stages by which a small‐sized “pure‐player” has achieved profitable and sustainable e‐retail in the fashion sector by utilizing a multi‐niche strategy involving an e‐portfolio of five fashion‐related cyberstores.


This qualitative critical‐case utilizes the in‐depth interview technique and rich thematic data analysis to provide insight into e‐retail development, with conceptualizations inductively developed from the data. Findings are linked to business growth, e‐business strategy, portfolio management and entrepreneurship literatures.


Findings identify a staged, evolutionary approach to transactional cyberstore development and outline 20 key factors for e‐retail success. The “web‐weaving” process is conceptualized: this strategic “e‐portfolio management” approach identifies a multi‐niche opportunity for e‐retail, which spreads risk, maximizes revenue streams, utilizes knowledge economies/synergies across multiple‐web sites, promotes customer added value and offers potential for competitive advantage and sustainability for the smaller‐sized e‐retailer.

Research limitations/implications

This is an in‐depth study of a single, long‐standing e‐retailer maintaining superior retention levels across an international customer base. That this enterprise bucks current trends by surviving (when 75 per cent e‐retail ventures fail) adds validity to web‐weaving as a sustainability strategy. Future research should explore this phenomenon within a wider inter/intra‐niche context to further contribute to the enhancement of e‐retail strategic marketing/enterprise development.

Practical implications

Implications indicate that a (niche) e‐portfolio strategy is perceived as defensible, from an owner‐director perspective, for sustaining a fashion e‐retail enterprise. Targeting multiple‐niches via “web‐weaving” provides a clear route to critical‐mass and sustainability, which could prove a valuable lesson for many small e‐retailers – potentially providing a framework for internet‐strategy development in other marketing domains.


This research presents a rich picture of how an e‐retail enterprise, in a highly competitive/dynamic market, can develop and sustain transactional e‐business over the longer‐term – presenting obvious implications to SME retail/marketing management.



Ashworth, C., Schmidt, R., Pioch, E. and Hallsworth, A. (2006), "“Web‐weaving”", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 34 No. 6, pp. 497-511. https://doi.org/10.1108/09590550610667074

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