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Red sheds in cyberspace

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As the Herald reported on Monday the king of bargains The Warehouse has finally decided to do something with its website recruiting direct marketing company Aim Proximity to give the tired looking site a revamp.
The Warehouse website is currently pretty useless, not even allowing searches of the company's product database.
Instead you're offered PDF downloads or JPEG quick views of the mailers the company sells out. Not very Web 2.0 and leagues behind the efforts of overseas retailers such as Walmart and Target.
Walmart, the biggest retailer in the world, has had a shaky start in ecommerce but recently went through a big revamp.
Its Site to Store programme, which allows for goods bought online to be shipped to your local Walmart store for free, has been a hit. Because Walmart basically has a distribution system as comprehensive as Fedex, it's very cheap for it to shuttle merchandise around the US.
In that area it has an edge on the pure online retailers such as Amazon.com, which currently dominate in online sales.
On a smaller scale, The Warehouse enjoys the same benefits. It has a sophisticated distribution network, a nationwide footprint of stores and buying power that no other retailer can compete with.
It's the country's biggest retailer of music by a large margin and could probably own this space online if it provided the free national shipping for CDs and DVDs that Real Groovy currently offers.


Despite that, "the group's general manager of marketing, Stu Yorston, says the move is not part of a rapid march towards online sales. The focus for the new digital marketing contract was still getting customers into the 85 Red Sheds.
So why is The Warehouse so cautious about moving into online sales? Well, as Walmart and our own Ferrit have found, doing ecommerce properly is difficult and expensive.
Ferrit, which is owned by Telecom, is basically an online mall of bricks and mortar retailers, but has failed to make an impact with consumers.
That's probably due to a mix of bad site design and the failure to make Ferrit a destination people want to go to regularly - like Trade Me is.
As a result, Ferrit, like Flying Pig before it, may prove to be an ecommerce casualty unless it radically changes what it's doing.
According to this article bookseller Whitcoulls is making a big effort across Australasia to move into ecommerce with a major revamp of its website.
Whitcoulls was also a party to the Fly Pig venture. So who will be the first New Zealand retailer to make ecommerce work or will it be left to pure online retailers to pave the way?
Would you buy online from The Warehouse or is the business, as the company seems to believe, purely about getting people into the red sheds?

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