Thursday, May 18, 2000 4:00 PM UTC

Boo hoo!

Over-the-top design and a burn rate of $120 million in six months force the achingly hip fashion retail site to give up the ghost.

The fashion retail site Boo.com was laid to rest Wednesday, after reportedly burning through $120 million in a mere six months. The Web’s first immersive retail environment had its own online guide (Miss Boo), its own online magazine (Boom) and some of the hippest clothing brands. But it was wildy overdesigned, difficult to navigate and completely out of touch with most Web retailers’ vision of quick shopping and ease of use.

Shoppers and analysts alike found Boo overly ambitious and few were surprised by staff cuts announced in January. Still, the death of this short-lived, high-profile venture marks Europe’s first major dot-com failure. With big-name backers like Benetton and Bernard Arnault, the famed chairman of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, Boo.com was one of the most publicized e-commerce efforts.

According to a BBC report, a last-ditch effort to secure another $30 million failed, and while the site was growing, it wasn’t getting enough orders to make up the vast sums already spent starting the company. So, some 300 people were reportedly clearing out their desks Wednesday.

Still, it’s hard to imagine many users crying over the loss of the site itself. Boo.com had a troubled beginning. Its initial launch was delayed for six months, and when it finally opened its virtual doors, shoppers found themselves confused, even driven away by the cartoon salespeople and cumbersome design of the oh-so-hip online shop.

Online retailing doomsayers should note that Boo.com’s demise doesn’t make it an e-commerce casualty — it’s merely the death of style over substance.