May Woos The Knot.com with Cash, Offline Ties

Wedding site The Knot received a major vote of confidence — and a healthy injection of cash — through a new marketing partnership with retail giant May Department Stores Co.

Through the agreement, the New York-based site receives a $5 million investment from St. Louis-based May, which owns department store chains including Filene’s, Hecht’s and Lord & Taylor. May, which receives a 19.5 percent stake in the firm, also receives the right to appoint a member to its board of directors.

In addition to the cash, The Knot also lands valuable offline ties, in the form of an alliance that links the site to the May stores’ wedding registries.

As a result of the alliance, May and The Knot said a multi-channel marketing effort will promote the retailer’s wedding registry services to The Knot’s 2.3 million registered members. The campaign will tap Web advertising, email and direct mail, in-store ads and placements in The Knot’s offline magazines, The Knot Wedding Gowns and Weddingpages.

The move better positions The Knot against Amazon.com-backed rival WeddingChannel.com, which has similar partnerships with Federated’s Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, among a host of other retailers. On Monday, WeddingChannel also announced the addition of the Pottery Barn division of Williams-Sonoma, the flagship stores of which already had been affiliated with the site.

Prior to May’s, The Knot’s largest offline registries relationship was with Linens N Things.

“We anticipate great success of this alliance, which will unite the number-one wedding Web site, the largest regional wedding publication, and one of the nation’s leading wedding registries,” said David Liu, co-founder and chief executive officer of The Knot.

For May, the alliance with The Knot comes as it, like other major retailers, is reeling from sluggish consumer spending due in large part to economic conditions and the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Last week, May reported a nearly 17 percent drop in year-to-year revenues for its fourth quarter.

Company executives said they see May’s work with The Knot as helping it to rebound.

“The strategic implications of this alliance are very powerful,” said May chairman and chief executive officer Gene Kahn. “Demographics show that the $70 billion bridal industry is ready for significant growth.”

“We are excited and energized about this alliance,” he added. “This is an unparalleled opportunity for May to team with the premier source for wedding-related information. The Knot has impressive brand recognition among today’s engaged couples and is acclaimed for offering savvy, fresh ideas and great information for wedding planning.”

Kahn also said that May’s alliance with The Knot would help it land younger customers.

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