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BEST OF THE REST: February 18

Pre-shop till you drop!

Shopping research website issued a widely re-published press release this week hyperbolically highlighting the ‘exponential growth’ of what it calls online pre-shopping.

While the press release was fundamentally all about the success of Lasoo, it contained at least five useful bits of information:
– In the 3-months to Christmas, more than two million Lasoo visitors said they visited a physical store following their Lasoo research, with 75 per cent subsequently making a purchase;
– 15 million catalogue pages were viewed on consumer mobile devices using Lasoo’s mobile application in the Christmas season;
– By late 2010, Lasoo was already seeing local adoption of practices such as the use of mobile devices as bar code readers to conduct product research and price comparisons, check product specifications and check product reviews and ratings;
– 43 percent of online sales are going offshore, according to PayPal;
– Online research influenced 50 percent of sales in Australian bricks ‘n’ mortar sales.

CE trade website Current went a step further than reprinting the release, and its interview with the Lasoo CEO Paul Marshall is worth a look for his opinions on the GST debate, the reasons for the high level of offshore sales, and the brave new world of ‘pre-shopping’.

Current’s interview with JB HiFi’s new CEO Terry Smart, in which he elaborates on JB’s cautionary approach to the even braver new world of social networking, is also a decent read.

Why is milk a sacred cow?

The controversy over the Coles-Woolworths duopoly’s loss-leading strategy on milk sales will have considerable resonance with photographic retailers grappling with larger retailers ‘giving ’em away’ approach to their (once) staple product, 6×4-inch prints.

COSBOA, which claims small business as its constituency (and PMA as a member), has issued a thunderous press release decrying the iniquity of ‘Big Retail’.

One wonders why it hasn’t come out swinging for other small retailers facing what is a basically a structural flaw in the Australian economy – too great a concentration of buying power in too few companies. Change ‘milk and bread’ to ‘photos’ or ‘books’ or ‘petrol’ or any number of other categories, and the dynamic is much the same. What COSBOA executive director Peter Strong opines regarding the dairy industry is equally applicable to the photo industry, just with a slight adjustment to the rogues’ gallery:

‘The prices we’re seeing are significantly below market cost. Coles and Woolworths may be able to afford a loss on these products to get customers through the door but my members cannot. The Duopoly will without a doubt increase the price of other essential items…to make up for these discounts.

‘This is predatory behaviour as they are aggressively attracting the consumer into their shops as a way to decrease any competition they may have.

‘…The fact is that if these prices continue small retailers who provide a valuable service, and provide employment to their local communities will inevitably face closure or have to shed staff.’

– Well said, Peter – now how about support for other equally put-upon representatives of that endangered species, the specialist retailer?

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