Cooleh gets the big freeze

Online retail mart has become the latest casualty of a chilly Canadian online shopping climate....

Online retail mart has become the latest casualty of a chilly Canadian online shopping climate.

On March 8, backers Torstar and Corus Entertainment, both of Toronto, pulled the plug on their fledgling online shopping site.

‘We’ve announced that regrettably we’ve had to terminate operations of Cooleh,’ says Bruce Annan, president of Torstar Electronic Media. ‘We determined that in the e-commerce aggregation space in Canada, we were either six months too late, or some years too early.

‘Unfortunately, the pendulum has swung, and as it always does, it’s swung too far. There’s such a backlash right now against the very phrase ‘e-commerce.’ With so much talk about the dot-com meltdown on the stock market, merchants weren’t motivated to become a part of Cooleh, and without the product in the database, you can’t give a good user experience. We couldn’t stay the course by marketing a site that in the end wasn’t giving people a good experience.’

Annan declined to reveal the site’s number of registered users.

Launched less than a year ago, was designed to bring together a cross-section of Canadian merchants – many of whom had never had a Web presence, including Dragonfly Music, Cameron Books and Sunrise Records – with countless Canadians who had never crossed the e-commerce hurdle.

While typical online shopping malls promise to do much the same thing, allowed consumers to search by product type, name, specifications or price, as well as run price comparisons, browse by category and shop without leaving the site, says Annan. Retailers meanwhile, could have their sites built, hosted and e-commerce-enabled by Cooleh.

Canadians are great adopters of the Internet, and certainly the recent spate of radio and print advertising was driving traffic to the site, says Annan, but visitors were simply not purchasing.

‘We think [providing an online shopping alternative] is a space we’ll revisit in due course.’