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Furniture.com, Redux?

Zapped by the Internet recession, Furniture.com zonked out for a long snooze on a comfy sofa, but now the failed online retailer has reupholstered the business plan and new ownership is planning a come-back with a relaunch set for Wednesday.

The "Coming Soon" place-holder Web site says that the new Furniture.com will be partnered with "some of the largest furniture retailers in the country" for faster delivery and local service.

The previous business model for the Framingham, Mass.-based company was based on the central warehouse concept. That plan was mostly online idealism (shipping costs are high and not a lot of folks are willing to buy a mattress or a sofa without sitting on it first) and the company went belly-up in November of 2000, without ever completing its IPO.

Furniture.com, which counted CMGI as a minority investor, lost $46.5 million in 1999 on revenues of $10.9 million.

This time around the plan is to team up with established, real-world furniture sellers like Levitz Home Furnishings, the holding company for Levitz Furniture and Seaman Furniture.

Clearly furniture is a tough business even in the real-world; Levitz Furniture itself declared bankruptcy in 1997. Today Levitz Furniture has about 60 stores (half of them in California), while Seaman also has about 60 stores in the northeastern U.S., according to Hoover's.

The revived company is being headed by a former Furniture.com senior vice president, Carl Prindle, a spokesman told InternetNews.com. Customer orders apparently will be transmitted to the established retailers, which will handle delivery, and of course the associated problems of returns.

Of course, there's not much online that hasn't been tried and the new Furniture.com will have competition from outfits like FurnitureFan.com, which says it "helps you find the furniture you like, in stores near you." The company evolved from FurnitureChannel.com, a Sudbury, Mass-based outfit that started as an online retailer and saw its business model evolve as the reality set in.