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Opinion

Gerry Harvey, Scoopon, Groupon wow what a week!

Online Retailing Is Coming Of Age rocket_to_dollars
Mark Freidin 9 January 2010

This week past is probably the most historic week for the online retailing industry in Australia.  For years now there has been a plethora of “expert” commentary providing reasons why online retailing has failed, both from traditional retailers and from those in the industry or fringe to the industry. The infamous comment by Gerry Harvey that Online Retailing is a waste of time, followed by so called expert opinions that the country is too big, delivery logistics are too hard (anyone heard of Australia Post’s eParcel service, an amazing service that will get a parcel to any address in Australia??), the population is too small and so on, I could bore you with hundreds of pages of commentary from both sides, some true most just hypothesis. At this time in the background a few entrepreneurs were growing their email databases while offering incredible deals on their online stores. Some of the early adopter companies such as  dailydeals.com.au, catchoftheday.com.au  and Kogan.com.au understood online and the web, its democratisation and liberation for shoppers  These companies pursued this segment vigorously to become some of the nations top online retailers.

At the beginning of this week, I chose to sit back and watch the outcome of the Gerry Harvey, Solomon Lew GST debacle relating to online purchases from abroad unravel, and review all the posts and commentary that would come out before I sat down and summarised the events and put my thoughts to keyboard (miss that pen and paper sometimes).

And boy has it been a week for great publicity for Online Retailing in Australia, not to mention the increased confidence it will give new and uncertain users who may have not purchased online yet. Like any growing fad, the more people hear and read about it and talk about it amongst friends, the more native it becomes and the adoption and uptake happens almost naturally.

So, lets have a look at the last week or two. Gerry Harvey and his cohorts make a spectacle of themselves like children who have had their candy taken away from them because retail was so poor this Christmas. Must blame it on something so this blame  goes to all the goods  imported that are being purchased by shoppers online from overseas retailers with an online presence.  So this baffles me! If Online Retailing is a waste of time and Online Retailing makes up 3% of retail sales in Australia, where is the problem? Or is it that Online Retailing is much bigger than first believed by the retailers? I am still baffled that they would attack GST on imports in such a big way. Something so trivial in the scheme of things.

According to an article in the Herald Sun, Gerry Harvey  announced he will be taking a lower profile in the retailers’ campaign for GST to be applied to overseas online purchases. He has backed down as there has been a large  consumer backlash. The Herald Sun online poll showed that 91.96% of voters (from a sample of 10,592 people) were  against any plans to tax online purchases.  Facebook comments to boycott Harvey Norman and the topic has dominated Twitter chatter (click here to see the article)

Add to this the much publicised blog post by Andrew Mason, Groupon CEO about why they aren’t in Australia yet and the publicity given to scoopon.com.au. Incidentally most Australians would have asked “Who is Groupon?” a week ago as the brand is virtually unknown here. It is said there is no such thing as bad publicity and this must certainly be good for Scoopon.com.au (as well as Groupon).

Finally, there is suddenly no shortage of articles appearing online and in the press about so much relating to online retailing (see some example as at the end of this article)

Well, all this buzz makes me very excited. I have been an advocate of online retailing for almost 8 years now and I always knew that online retailing would find its place in Australia. Each year, there have been articles published that online retailing will explode in Australia. I have held a firm stance that it will naturally evolve instead of explode, and I believe I have been right so far judging by what I am seeing in the industry.

I am certain the bext few weeks will continue to provide more interesting coverage on the online retailing space

Just to highlight the activity in the space, here are just a handful of articles that have appeared in the press in the last few days:

Online retail is the way of the future

Don’t mess with online retailing

Harvey calls for help in campaign

Trading web is winning big business

Top US site’s name trouble

For even more recent commentary in the press click here to visit the IR blog

Photocredit: jscreationzs

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