Amazon's Quidsi mulls more stores, starts Casa.com

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Feb 14, 2012 12:33pm EST

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc unit Quidsi may open more physical stores because sales sometimes benefit from hands-on interaction by customers, according to Vinit Bharara, co-founder and chief operating officer of Quidsi.

Quidsi is launching a new online home goods business called Casa.com this week that will carry more than 35,000 products including bedding, towels, storage, dinnerware, and cookware.

That adds to existing Quidsi websites such as Diapers.com, Soap.com, BeautyBar.com, Wag.com and YoYo.com.

Amazon has succeeded partly by avoiding the cost of operating brick and mortar stores and Quidsi is almost exclusively online.

However, Quidsi's BeautyBar cosmetics business opened a physical store last year at a shopping mall in Manhasset, New York. Bharara said the company also ran a baby products store when it used to be based in Montclair, New Jersey.

"Where we think customers want more of an experience of touching and feeling the product, like in beauty, it might make sense," Bharara told Reuters in an interview. "It might make sense in some of these other websites that we launch in the future."

Recent Quidsi job postings online suggest the company is planning a sporting goods business. Bharara declined to comment on plans for future category expansion.

Quidsi's BeautyBar store in Manhasset had a strong holiday season, Bharara said, while declining to disclose financial details.

"We're excited by the results so far," he added. "These things, if you do it right, and generate the right customer demand they're not done as loss leaders or anything like that. The financials make sense."

Many of the home goods that Casa.com will feature mimic items on Amazon's main site. For Bharara, who himself sometimes shops on Amazon.com and sometimes visits more specialized sites, that is not a concern.

"Different people shop in different ways," he said. "There are occasions when folks are going to want a more specialized shopping experience."

Shoppers can add items from the various Quidsi sites into one shopping cart. Buying from more than one site at a time lowers the minimum order for free shipping to $39 from $49. At Amazon, most orders qualify for free shipping with a $25 purchase.

(Reporting By Alistair Barr in San Francisco and Jessica Wohl in Chicago)

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