Not All Retailers Rushing Online

SAN FRANCISCO (01/28/2000) - Hordes of companies may be rushing to the Internet in search of fame and fortune - but not most retailers and consumer goods suppliers and manufacturers.

A Deloitte & Touche LLP study released last week shows that roughly one-third (35%) of 156 retailers surveyed and a mere 17% of 143 consumer goods manufacturers polled are selling merchandise from their Web sites.

And among those that either have a Web site or plan to have one, more than half said they're "not organized" about their electronic-business activities, and 34% said they don't view the Internet as "strategic."

"We were absolutely shocked," said Lindsay Parker, a consultant at San Francisco-based Deloitte. "People are being very cautious. They're just not sure they're ready to take the plunge."

Seema Williams, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., speculated that Deloitte may have included some small retailers in its poll that "simply don't have the wherewithal to invest in e-commerce. Most major retailers are selling online in one way, shape or form. Now I can't say they're doing it well, but they're learning."

Deloitte's pool of 387 companies sampled retailers and consumer goods firms, brokers and distributors and a handful that didn't fall into any of those categories. Nearly half of the respondents listed annual revenue in excess of $100 million.

Citing a Forrester study that showed that only 1% of consumer spending last year came from Internet sales, Parker said many companies question why they should focus time and capital on a new channel where the potential payback is unclear and success could mean cannibalization of the brick-and-mortar operation.

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