Letter: Internet retailing is not so easy

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The Independent Online
Sir: A number of points should be made before the total domination of the retail market by Internet-based services is to be believed ("Retailers are trying to hold back the Internet tide", 23 August).

As Nigel Cope rightly points out, World Wide Web-based shopfronts are highly suitable for some merchandise, particularly "soft" or digital merchandise. They are unsuitable for other merchandise, particularly commodities found in supermarkets - especially perishables.

The penetration of PCs into UK households, the last time I looked, was around 25 per cent, far too low to make supermarket retailing a reality.

The bandwidth available for those "wired" PCs is far too narrow to allow for the feature-rich displays that the average supermarket shopper is used to on the TV and too narrow for economic delivery of "soft" goods.

For the average order of four to five bags of goods, at current rates the delivery charge would surely be too much to bear. Quite apart from the above, people like to shop.

Where Mr Cope's argument is sustained, though, is in his suggestion that the retailers are running scared.

Perhaps the most pertinent question to put to retailers is: why haven't they grabbed the opportunity presented by Internet-based instore "kiosks" to extend the merchandise they can offer in smaller stores?