Boo Hoo: A Dot Com Story

Boo hoo is a gripping, insider’s account of the rise and fall of this most controversial of internet startups – a global, online retailer of sports and designer clothes.  ‘Such a dazzling version of the boo phenomenon that as readers turn the pages they will be rooting for the company to survive even though they know the story ends in disaster.’ The Sunday Times

Boo Hoo is the story of a online designer clothing store founded in 1998 by Ernst Malmsten, Kajsa Leander and Patrik Hedelin.  They set out to create a global fashion website launching simultaneously in several countries.  The book is written by Ernst Malmsten and is a facinating insider look at the Boo story from the idea’s conception through to the end.

I found that the book was a brilliant read and many of the lessons in the book or website designs are as useful now as they were 10 years ago.  10 years ago I wasn’t involved in eCommerce and can’t remember ever visiting  However when I consider today’s leading websites, few are as complex as Boo set out to be –

E.G. Boo aimed to launch with

  • Free delivery and returns to all the countries they operated in
  • Different prices for each territory
  • 3D Product images
  • A Fashion Magazine (again personalised for each country)
  • Leading designer brands
  • A Virtual Assistant
  • Free returns

There are few websites today which try to do so much.  Ultimatly from reading the book I think that this was their downfall, the systems were so complex they never seemed ready to launch, should they have tried to launch in one country first, make a stable income then grow?  Or were they right to be bold?

The book naturally seems a little one sided, as it was written by one of the founders it is their view of the Boo story, while it seemed a in-depth expose of what happened it does also feel a little one sided in where blame is centred.  There are many headline grabbing lines and interesting stories – Boo burnt through $188 million dollars before it failed, when told there were security issues in their offices, they employed a team of ex Gurkha’s to protect the building.

All in all I would really recommend this to anyone interested in the Internet or eCommerce or just wants a good read!

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