Shooting Star Finds Ready Market

AUCKLAND (07/14/2000) - Christchurch, New Zealand-based Internet company EstarOnline is finding a ready market for the electronic commerce system it developed for its retail operation cdstar.

Although the company is not yet marketing the solution dubbed ISAM (Internet shop and management system), a handful of customers are lined up in Italy, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

EstarOnline chief executive officer Matthew Darby says he can't yet name any of the customers but they are all retailers, except for the Australian site which will be business-to-business. The Italian operation will be rolled out across six European countries.

As well as providing the software, EstarOnline will also host and support its customers' e-commerce sites from Christchurch.

Darby says speed is not an issue because New Zealand's heaviest traffic is during the working day, while European countries' greatest requirements occur during New Zealand's night-time hours.

He describes ISAM as an end-to-end system which allows the user to operate an e-commerce site with a full range of tools such as database updating, automatic content updating, automatic purchasing, credit card transactions and full security.

EstarOnline recently declined to license its shopping cart technology to a North American company. "We want to keep it as a shrink-wrapped complete solution rather than selling off bits and pieces."

The system is also highly automated and Darby says because of this it takes about half a staff member to operate the cdstar site.

It is split into two commercial packages; Ishop priced at NZ$7,500 (US$3,450) and Ishop Plus which is NZ$15,000, both of which are aimed at small to medium-sized businesses wanting to expand into e-commerce for a set price.

There is also Ishop Pro, a custom-built solution for businesses wanting more customization especially in the look and feel of the site, or for businesses with a larger or more complex product range.

Darby says two of the current sites are Ishop Pro and the rest are Ishop or Ishop Plus. For NZ$499 per month EstarOnline also does site maintenance and hosting.

Darby says EstarOnline has no plans to resurrect its attempted share float, which was cancelled in May because of the fluctuating stock market.

"The feeling is that we'll carry on the way we are. Cdstar is trading well."

The NZ$10 million raised with the aborted float has now been returned to would-be investors.

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