IQ News: Bolt Swings Open Doors To Online Mall

Teeny boppers can shop around the clock starting today when’s new store officially opens for business. The New York-based teen site began beta testing the Web shop last week, with some 800 products and counting.
The Bolt site sets itself apart from other portals by allowing users to generate the bulk of its content, and in that spirit, teens can post reviews of items for sale–good and bad. Lists of the top 10 items and the ten most recent items sold tell teens what their peers are buying.
“It’s community-driven commerce,” explains Brad Mehl, Bolt’s vice president of marketing. “We empower these guys to say what’s cool, and what sucks.”
Everything from shirts to lava lamps are provided by retailers, manufacturers and distributors. Bolt handles the transaction; the sources handle fulfillment. Retailers include Blades and Newbury Comics. Bolt vice president of commerce Alexa Tobin says that Bolt won’t buy and then warehouse its own inventory. The fickle teen market could leave them desperate to move thousands of units of a suddenly untrendy item. Bolt hopes to capitalize on the freedom it has to add and drop items as they come in and out of demand. Bolt hopes to lure shoppers away from Yahoo! and America Online.
San Jose, Calif.-based CyberSource handles credit card transactions. (Bolt is also looking into alternative payment methods.) Customer support is provided via Los Angeles-based, a live e-mail chat option. Viral marketing components include e-mailable birthday and wish lists.
Bolt currently racks up 3 million visitors a month with a user base of 1.4 million registered Boltsters. To promote its new store, Bolt has inked several online distribution deals with Hotmail, Yahoo!, Lycos, MSN and ESPN, with more in the works. The Yahoo deal entails a fixed position banner in its teen area, while Hotmail’s twice weekly teen newsletter will target 2.2 million users with Bolt store information. Bolt is also planning a print campaign in about 10 lifestyle books, including Bike, Sport, Surfer and Skateboarder.