SNEWS Reader Poll: Is e-tail endangering future of independent retail?

When we asked our readers if sophisticated e-tail was endangering the future of independent specialty retail, we didn't really know what answer to expect. But we did get a resounding one -- to find the answer and chime in yourself, click through to the story. It's a hot topic to be sure.
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The editorial team at SNEWS® thinks about a lot of things -- sometimes too much, we admit. But after a recent webinar presenting ComScore’s state of e-tail business for Q3 2010, we began to ponder what impact e-tail was having on the future of independent specialty retail.

With the promise of free shipping and free returns, combined with aggressive online couponing, and the fact that consumers don’t have to pay sales tax (at least when they make the purchase, though, many state laws do require consumers to report online purchases at tax time), it is little wonder online shopping continues to boom. And, there is no end to the amazing growth curve in sight.

According to a ComScore 2010 Q3 e-commerce report, Amazon.com had the largest audience of any online retailer with an average 78 million monthly unique visits in Q3 2010 and is one of the fastest growing e-tail sites in the retail category. In fact, in September 2010, Amazon.com had nearly double the unique visitors of Walmart.com (63 million vs. 32 million).

During the month of November, we ran a Reader Poll question asking about people’s perceptions regarding the impact sophisticated e-tailers are having on independent specialty retail shops. The responses we received are as clear an indication as any that SNEWS subscribers in both the outdoor and fitness industry feel independent specialty retail as we know it is in trouble.

Lending further credence to those who voted "yes" to our survey question, ComScore issued a warning for independent retailers during the webinar. The chart below, taken from a series of slides presented at the ComScore webinar, shows specialty retail losing market share to more sophisticated e-tailers simply because specialty retail cannot compete on price, do not have the same distribution channels, and are being outspent on marketing.

E-tail’s impact, good or bad, upon independent specialty retail is a very interesting topic to ponder and one with numerous answers depending on perspective. Naturally, we’d be interested in more insight from our readers. Use the SNEWS Chat function to add your observations about how specialty retailers can and should compete with sophisticated e-tail. Should manufacturers be concerned about the apparent challenge to the future of specialty retail from sophisticated e-tailers? What solutions would you suggest? Should we all be worried, or, is this just a natural form of economic evolution and to the victor goes the spoils?

--Michael Hodgson

Don’t miss our current survey question on the consumer perception of green products below.

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