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U.K. Home Improvement Store Launches $15 Million Web Site

[London, ENGLAND] Homebase, the home improvement arm of J Sainsbury plc, says it aims to "de-mystify interior design" with its new Web site Homebase.co.uk.

A fully transactional site, Homebase.co.uk has cost US $15 million to develop, but its proud parent is confident it will capture a significant share of the online market for paints, tools, materials and related home improvement products.

However, by its own admission, Homebase will be addressing a market currently worth only US $12 million a year -- substantially less than the cost of its site.

Homebase Managing Director Kate Swann explained that the strategy was to capture pole position in online sales of home and garden enhancement products within 12 months from launch.

"We will measure the success by how our customers receive the site, the level of sales and the value it adds to the existing business," said Swann.

"What you see today is just the beginning, we are in the middle of an expansion program that includes exciting developments both on and offline," Swann added.

Having endured a spell in the wilderness when the housing market was in the doldrums, Homebase has enjoyed a resurgence with the sharp rise in house prices over the past two years. It plans to open ten new stores this year, four of which it describes as "large format" (up to 100,000 square feet) while the others will be even larger megastores.

At Homebase.co.uk, customers can currently purchase from over 5,000 products. This will grow, says the company, by over 50 percent in the next two months and "aggressively throughout the year."

The site will also offer advice and useful information to complement the sales of products and services.