PopSugar Launches Social Shopping Game

In an effort to more intimately connect female consumers with brands, online publisher Sugar Inc. on Tuesday is expected to launch a social shopping game named Retail Therapy. The game -- which debuts with a number of retail brands, including Banana Republic, Barneys New York, and Diane von Furstenberg -- encourages players to merchandise and design their own fashion boutiques, and dress their characters in popular styles and brands.

"We wanted to create an addicting game that would appeal to one of [women's] greatest areas of passion -- fashion," said Brian Sugar, founder and CEO of Sugar Inc.

Beginning with a small and empty boutique, players are challenged to stock their stores with clothing from PopSugar's Retail Therapy brand partners and design their store layout. The virtual clothes are replicas of real items that players can buy.

"Within the game, players can link directly to retailers' Web sites if they want to buy the products in real life," Sugar said.

By carrying attractive fashions, players earn virtual money to customize their stores with stylized furnishings or grow their stores into giant department stores. In addition to running their own boutique, players can shop at friends' stores or those hosted by brand-name retailers.

Players can also download their personalized characters and outfits to social networking sites in order to share their style with their network of friends.

Initially, Retail Therapy will be available for free on Facebook. Other launch partners include Gap, Juicy Couture, Topshop, and Tory Burch.

Sponsor retailers can host in-game virtual stores or provide clothing from their current fashion lines for players' characters to wear, order, and stock in their own boutiques. They can also sponsor in-store events, give clothing to players, and introduce limited-availability items.

To start, Banana Republic, Barneys New York, Diane von Furstenberg, Gap, Juicy Couture, Topshop, and Tory Burch have all provided virtual merchandise for the game. Diane von Furstenberg and Topshop also have in-game virtual stores where players can shop.

PopSugar also plans to integrate aspects of Retail Therapy into its editorial content, which presently includes 16 sites.

Sugar, Inc. officially launched in April 2006, a year after Lisa Sugar, editor in chief and Brian Sugar's wife, began a celebrity gossip blog named PopSugar.

Presently, the majority of Sugar Inc.'s revenue still comes from advertising, while the rest is from commissions and revenue-sharing from ShopStyle, the e-commerce site it acquired in late 2007.

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