For those still sceptical about the breadth and depth of eCommerce in the US economy a couple of recent developments should finally bring you into the 21st Century.
First, Stores magazine, the publication of the National Retail Federation trade association, reports that for the first time a pure eCommerce company entered into its group of top 10 retailers. It should come as no surprise that the retailer is Amazon, which entered in the ninth position. In fact, the Stores list of the top 100 retailers in the US, based on sales, made a point of noting that even the established brick-and-mortar retailers are fully adapting to online retail.
Amazon aside, the largest e-commerce merchants remain those that started in bricks-and-mortar, Stores reports. For example, the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, is rated the No. 4 performer in online retailing, behind Amazon, Apple and Staples, according to another publication, Internet Retailer.
Things are looking to get even better for online sales for 2014. The record cold weather this past winter provided a big boost to eCommerce in the first quarter while delivering a blow to store-based retailers, according to Stores magazine.
The relative success of traditional retailers in the online arena is because they are “large-scale profitable businesses well-grounded in the mechanics of retailing,” said Bryan Gildenberg, chief knowledge officer for Kantar Retail, which compiles the annual list of the nation’s top retailers for Stores. He points out that “89 percent of e-commerce is ‘commerce.’ That’s what bricks-and-mortar is good at.”
Well, not all bricks-and-mortar. The jewellery industry in the US remains a laggard in eCommerce. Not surprisingly the only jewellery retailer in Stores Top 100 list, Signet Jeweler, is also one of the few that is actively working to increase its eCommerce business. Signet reported that in Fiscal 2013, eCommerce sales in the US increased 27.2 percent to $129 million. Mike Barnes, Signet CEO, has said that it will continue to place an increased emphasize on its eCommerce, business, particularly mobile.
It’s not just mass retailers that are entering the eCommerce arena. Even the rarefied world of auction houses is trying to capitalize on eCommerce. Sotheby’s announced that is teaming with Internet retailing giant, eBay, to stream Sotheby’s auctions worldwide on a special section of eBay’s site. The partnership will eventually include online-only sales from Sotheby’s auctions around the world, giving eBay’s 145 million customers instant bidding access to what Sotheby’s sells.
Christie’s has already been providing online only auctions, including jewellery auctions. “Last year we launched 60 online auctions, and we will continue to double that number,” Steven P. Murphy, Christie’s chief executive, told the New York Times. “Thirty percent of our buyers this year were new to Christie’s, and one-third of that group came to us online.”
While the US jewellery retail industry continues to try to figure out how this whole Internet thing works, the rest of the world is purchasing products on their phones.