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Ray Allegrezza

Are you plugged into online opportunities?

October 8, 2010

As an independent specialty retailer, you've earned that name because you've elected to specialize in a given category; in this case, outdoor living products.
As a result, in choosing to sell outdoor products, you've identified your niche and hopefully are the expert in this segment within your trading area.
Your store is well-merchandised and clean. Your pricing is right and your staff is knowledgeable and friendly. Your customer service is outstanding and your advertising is clever and effective.
On paper, it sounds like you've got it all together.
But allow me to play the role of devil's advocate and challenge you by suggesting you may only be halfway home.
In talking to many specialty retailers, I often learn that while their brick and mortar operations are as good as anyone's, their Websites, Web presence and online revenues are often lacking.
Having said that, how much of a presence do you have online?
At a time when many forms of retail and struggling online sales, even is this lousy economy, continue to grow.
According to Forrester Research, which recently published a new five-year forecast, e-commerce sales in the U.S. are likely to continue to increase at a 10% compound annual hike through 2014.
The company goes on to predict that online retail sales here in this country should reach $250 billion, up significantly from the $155 billion recorded last year.
And before you think 2010 represents some anomaly, online retail sales were up 11% in 2009. Not too shabby when you realize that overall retail sales for the same period grew less than 3%.
Here are a few other findings from the Forrester report to think about:
U.S. e-commerce sales will account for 8% of all retail sales by 2014, up from 6% in 2009.
Last year, 154 million people in the United States bought something online.
In 2009, computers, apparel and consumer electronics accounted for more than 44% of the $67.6 billion spent on online sales in 2009.
Perhaps even more noteworthy is that fact while $155 billion worth of consumer goods were bought online last year, a $917 billion worth of retail sales last year were "Web-influenced," according to the Forrester report.
The report also concluded that online and Web-influenced offline sales combined accounted for 42% of total retail sales and forecast that this percentage will spike to more than 50% by 2014.
To me, this sounds like lots of room for growth.
You've hit a home run with your brick and mortar store. But are you in the game in a meaningful way when it comes to selling online?
Ray Allegrezza, editor in chief of Furniture/Today and editorial director of Casual Living, can be reached at