business news in context, analysis with attitude

  • The New York Times reports this morning that in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, “the Internet is propping up bricks and mortar downtown, acting as a mainstay for the stores that have helped Manitowoc establish what development specialists call a ‘recreational’ shopping experience. Indeed, besides generating sales for giants like Amazon, the Internet is allowing small stores, here and around the country, to develop the niche products that shield them against big box retailers.

    “Beyond the revenue from online sales, Manitowoc's merchants say the biggest benefit of e-commerce is that it enables them to turn over their inventory much more quickly, so owners can add more products and variety to their sales floors. That, in turn, encourages more interest and customer traffic, diversifies the revenue stream and contributes to downtown street life here and in other small cities.”

  • reports on a recent Consumer Reports WebWatch survey suggesting that more than half of respondents had stopped giving out personal information over the Internet, and that about a third said that they were either using the Internet less or curtailing their online shopping a bit.

    “On the face of it, at least, the report seems like more depressing news,” the website writes. “The report -- fairly convincingly -- demonstrates that consumers are still unconvinced about their privacy and security online.”

    But consumers can be mollified. About 54 percent of survey respondents say that they are “more likely” to read a privacy policy than in the past – suggesting that easier-to-read and simpler policies might be effective in getting consumers to increase their online purchasing behavior.

  • Bloomberg reports that Wal-Mart’s website,, seems to appeal to wealthier customers than its brick-and-mortar stores – its online shoppers are better educated and have annual incomes that are about a third larger than in-store shoppers.

    And this means that Wal-Mart can offer higher end merchandise online than in its stores, selling more expensive electronics and fashion items than it might sell otherwise.
  • KC's View:
    We believe that these three stories illustrate the realities and advantages of using the Internet as a differential advantage.

    On the one hand, you have small stores that are driving sales, traffic – both on-line and in brick-and-mortar stores – by using the web to offer an expanded selection of products and services not offered by big box stores. (Remember – “compete” is a verb…something that these retailers clearly understand.)

    It has to be an ongoing effort – because quite obviously Wal-Mart is learning the same lesson.

    But retailers also have to be careful to be transparent about their procedures and policies – and always put the customer first.

    Win. Win. Win.