LA Times is Getting Into the Online Retail Business with District West

DW-badge-logoThe Los Angeles Times is facing a murky future, as fears mount that the Tribune Company, its corporate parent dogged until recently by years bankruptcy, will further gut the paper’s editorial staff. Or, perhaps worse, sell it to billionaires with nefarious political agendas.

But the executives at the Los Angeles Times Media Group see ecommerce as a possible revenue stream to buoy the paper.

Hence Monday’s launch of District West, a boutique retail site featuring clothes, kitsch, food and home goods from a variety of local vendors. The site is broken down by neighborhood, too, so you can get your vintage leather eyeglass case from Echo Park and any one of a selection of funky bowties from Hollywood.

“District West makes SoCal accessible to anyone hoping to tap into its unique sensibility or buy hyper-local,” Jennifer Collins, vice president of revenue development, said in a statement. “A visit to District West is like finding a cool, hidden gem – full of style and panache that’s straight off of LA’s streets.”

The site also targets mobile shoppers with its responsive design. And its “stories” section — an editorial vertical similar to UrbanDaddy or other style and food blogs — will be run as a separate entity from the L.A. Times, a spokeswoman told FishbowlNY. She emphasized that District West was created under the namesake media group’s umbrella.

But while the Times boasted in a press release that most of the “unusual, locally-designed and -manufactured items” would be priced at $200 or less, the site seems to offer goods at prices reminiscent of a museum gift shop.

A set of four mugs with local area codes printed on them goes for $56. Corduroys from local menswear shop Beautiful Fül will cost you $225. A loaf of jalapeño corn bread goes for $10.

It’s unclear whether there is enough local demand for boutique and gourmet goods sold online to turn a profit.

But if District West is successful, the site will expand to Orange County, according to Nancy Sullivan, the Times‘ vice president of communications.

“We’re Southern California focused,” she said in a phone interview, “the next place you’d see us look at would be Orange County.”