I met with with owner of this clothing website which, (amongst many other issues!) has a strange background colour choice. Apparently this was chosen to be a bit different from “all the other websites” using white.
Of course it’s tempting to point out that if most websites are doing something, especially the major ones, it’s probably because it works and a lot of time and money has been spent confirming the fact that it works.
A white – or pale coloured – background is certainly the safest way to present products on an ecommerce website, especially where there’s a range of product types and potentially image styles.
However, there are some websites who are doing things differently with colours, which I do work very well. The best example I think is Liberty.co.uk. A deep purple background is used throughout which looks luxurious, perfectly reflects the brand, and works equally well with each product category, from clothes to beauty to home.