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Internet threat to retail played down

THE perceived threat of the Internet to shopping centres often mooted by industry players is not warranted, Woolworths CEO and managing director Roger Corbett told a recent Securities Institute luncheon.

“There’s lots of talk about there being clicks and no bricks but larger traders have suddenly realised that bricks are a great plus for clicks and, if you’ve got clicks without bricks, it is very easy to lose a lot of money very quickly – and profits prove very elusive,” Mr Corbett said.

“The new economy is here and will play a very significant part in commerce in the coming years.”

To capture the benefits of Internet business, Woolworths has been pushing ‘homeshop’ which already has hundreds of thousands of customers and is close to breaking even.

“There is benefit in homeshop,” Mr Corbett said.

“Certainly, when you have a bricks and mortar base – we have got 600 outlets across Australia so that we can effectively deliver across Australia – who said bricks didn’t work with clicks?

“I say clicks can’t work without bricks.”

Far from reducing reliance on ‘bricks and mortar’, Woolworths is embarking on a major expansion campaign which will result in more physical shops.

“Our floor space roll out is 3 per cent and we expect it to continue to stay at least 3 per cent in the foreseeable future,” Mr Corbett said.

“We see 20 to 30 supermarkets a year for the foreseeable future and five or six Big Ws each year.”

The company’s market share is growing faster than any others in the industry.

The company is also working at making the shopping chore more enjoyable for the customer by introducing new store formats.

“We endeavour to deliver a better experience each time our customers enter our stores,” he said.

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