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As separate stores, they would each have their own theme. Themes are good. I fell mixing all these together in 1 store will seem random and create or horrible mish-mash of contrasting styles.
But in SEO terms, having 4 separate stores means diluting some SEO benefits across 4 sites, rather than have all SEO benefits pooled. By this I mean incoming links, etc. Not to mention losing some potential cross selling (a hippie with some ugly hippie pants in her cart also adding a S&M costume is not likely, but she may like one of the bikinis).
Not to mention more headache of managing 4 separate stores, rather than 1. Extra hosting costs, updating 4 sites, etc.
What do you guys think? Pros and cons? Tell me what to do. Mulling over this alone is driving me freaking nuts.
[edited by: lorax at 2:01 pm (utc) on Dec. 13, 2009]
[edit reason] removed specifics [/edit]
Still not sure. Looking at popular sites, you see tonnes of stores with everything, like nordstroms, jc penny, etc. But they were already physical chain stores.
You do see a lot of successful niche stores, which aren't physical chain stores. So maybe that is the way to go.
I think the SEO benefits of cross linking stores would be small. A few reciprocal back links. Might help when the sites are young, but later on, hopefully the few self back links would be just drops in the massive bucket of MILLIONS of satisfied customers linking to my stores in their blogs. Hahaha.
It might be beneficial to have specific stores, just for the marketability of specificness. Makes you appear to be the expert in the field of your site.
But as you said, techtheatre, the benefit of upselling different kinds of products is nothing to sneeze at. Imagine I did just one store all the products and 5% of customers end up adding products that could have been in a separate store. Nothing to sneeze at.
I am still mulling over this one.