Realtors gear up for battlefield

RETAIL property will become a battlefield as electronic commerce claws market share from traditional retailers according to Chesterton International managing director Graham Iddles.

Mr Iddles was presenting an address as part of the Future Perth lecture series organised by the Committee of Economic Development of Australia in conjunction with the WA Planning Commission.

Describing retail as “property’s soft electronic commerce underbelly”, Mr Iddles said e-tailing would take off in a bg way.

“There is a growing trend towards what America has dubbed the ‘cocoon syndrome’,” Mr Iddles said.

“It goes back to the ‘Englishman’s home is his castle’ adage, and is a reaction to what is perceived to be a less safe, less friendly world outside the front door.

“People are closing the door after a day or week at work and keeping it closed – families increasingly see the home as the only safe and comfortable place to be.

“They’re buying in takeaway and videos, investing in wide screen TV, entertaining themselves with computer games, the Internet and Foxtel.

“They’ll shop at a major suburban centre once a week and, if they dine out, they’ll do it locally to avoid the booze buses and radars.

“They are computer literate, often thanks to their children, and are wide open to the benefits of an e-commerce facility, which will see their purchases delivered safely to their door.”

Mr Iddles said retailers specialising in medium to high value consumer goods were particularly at risk.

“For homogeneous specialty items and major purchases, consumers will be more and more prepared to make their purchases online, bypassing the shopfront retailer,” Mr Iddles said.

He said the online retailer would enjoy advantages over traditional retailers such as minimal overheads in terms of staff and accommodation.

Mr Iddles said, while Australia was behind the rest of the industrialised world in adopting e-tailing, within two years it could take up to 20 per cent of the consumer goods market.

“It could be argued that some sectors, like food, will be affected only at the margin, but others may be decimated,” Mr Iddles said.

“There are simply too many advantages in favour of the virtual retailer or reseller for certain sectors to compete,” he said.

Mr Iddles considers shopping centre managers must take up the challenge of ensuring the correct tenant mix to fire-proof against e-tailing.

“If several types of business traditionally located in major shopping centres come under pressure from online retailing, centre managers may not be able to find types of business to replace them,” Mr Iddles said.

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