Retailers Embrace E-Commerce

Traditional retailers who once feared the impact of Internet shopping, are now embracing e-commerce.

Shopping "on line" is among the hot topics at a convention of shopping center executives in Biloxi.

A growing number of retailers now see the Internet as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Chris Fox talked about the impact of technology during his "state of the industry" speech at the International Council of Shopping Centers convention. While shopping "on line" has affected traditional retailing, the impact isn't nearly as big or as bad as many retailers first feared.

"Today we see that many of those dot coms and e-commerce retailers have all fallen by the wayside because their business model doesn't work. The true business model that works today is the combination of a web site or an e-commerce web site combined with a strong 'bricks and mortar' franchise. That seems to work well."

The combination is called "bricks and clicks" within the industry. A retailer like "The Gap " maintains both a traditional store and an on line presence.

"It is an opportunity. But it goes along with their stores that they already have. So customers who might not be able to get out or are too busy to get out can go to their computers. But they also want the ability to go and touch and feel and see and try on that merchandise," shopping center manager Pam Meinzinger said.

Consumers get the best of both worlds. They'll be able to buy things at a traditional shopping center or make purchases with their computers.

"I think what we're seeing now is the traditional bricks and mortar retailers are embracing the e-commerce method. It's just another way to be able to give the customer what they want," shopping center developer Jimmy Moran said.

Statistics from this past Christmas season put the impact of e-commerce into perspective. Nine of the top 15 web sites were all run by major retailers, who also have stores