A boutique is the kind of place where kid glove treatment, often by the proprietor herself, drives sales. Now, even this market niche is being transformed by the Web.

Celebrities like Jessica Simpson and Angelina Jolie first spread the word about Intuition, which sells voguish jeans, some priced at more than $300. Recent growth has been online, driven by shoppers who might live many miles even a couple of time zones from the Pico Boulevard store.

"I am really flattered by the amount of attention my Web site is getting right now," said Jaye Hersh, president of Intuition. Online sales have risen 300 percent so far this year from the like period a year ago and now make up 60 percent of total sales volume.

Sales at the Web site for Lisa Kline, a clothing boutique with four local locations, have had double-digit monthly growth. The store revamped its Web site a little over a year ago to handle more product lines.

"You can see us featured on E! (Entertainment Television) and that gave us a tremendous amount of national exposure," said spokeswoman Amy Gobin. "People went to the Web site girls and guys out in the Midwest that don't have boutiques like this."

True Religion Apparel Inc., the Los Angeles-based manufacturer whose jeans have been worn by Kate Hudson and Cameron Diaz, will start selling online on May 1.

Charles Lesser, True Religion's chief financial officer, believes that the site will generate several hundred thousand dollars in monthly jeans sales. The jeans are priced from $172 to more than $300.

"The intention is to find those customers who wake up in Kansas who say, 'I went on a business trip, and I heard about True Religion,'" he said.

Mintel International Group Ltd. estimates that the online apparel market, which grew to $6.1 billion in 2004 from $3.4 billion in 2002, will grow 9 to 12 percent per year until 2009, while the clothing catalogs business will decrease 2 percent to 4 percent annually.

Accounting Update
The continuing cleanup in how companies account for leases on their books could well produce the largest number of earnings restatements ever and local public companies are caught up in it.

"This is affecting anybody that has had a store open," said Jack Ciesielski, publisher of The Analyst's Accounting Observer. "When push comes to shove, this will be the broadest one."


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