Oz retailers miss the online boat

Australian retailers have already missed the boat for the expected online trading boom this Christmas according to an e-commerce specialist.

Gregg Rowley, managing director of electronic security specialist eSign, said existing retail outlets would receive a "huge wakeup call" this Christmas. He believes most existing bricks-and-mortar retailers in Australia are not adequately prepared for e-commerce.

"Australian retailers have really missed the boat," Rowley said. "This is going to be the online boom year, as last year was the online boom year in the States."

However, Harvey Norman's online proprietor, Richard Eastmead, said Rowley's comments were "overhyped". "How have we missed the boat?" he asked. "The boat hasn't left yet."

Eastmead believes the "whole concept of e-commerce" has a while to wait before "booming". "It's showing massive growth, but over a tiny figure... It's easy to say 'so-and-so business had 200 per cent growth', but that's not hard when you're talking about such low figures."

Australian retail giants Myer-Grace Bros and David Jones declined to comment on their online strategies, but neither have implemented significant online shopping services.

Research company Boston Consulting Group (BCG) recently earmarked Australia as one of the leading online retail regions.

Based on preliminary findings in the BCG's NetBizAsia study, which is due to be completed early next year, Boston Consulting found the presence of 1400 online retail sites in the region, with a significant number of large, functioning sites from Korea.

Based on a per capita basis, the leading online retail regions in Asia Pacific are Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia/New Zealand and Korea, the study found. It was also found that pureplay sites, or sites that sell only on the Internet, have a slight edge in numbers over multi-channel sites, or companies that have both online sales and brick and mortar operations.

"The bottom line is that multi-channel 'clicks and bricks' companies will have the majority of online sales, as they have tremendous brand names, and the Internet is about brands," said Scott Desmarais, head of BCG's e-commerce practice area in Southeast Asia.

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