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December 26, 2008

Bright spots in the retail gloom

The underreported story of this Christmas season is that retailers with good business models did quite well. In the brick-and-mortar world, Wal-Mart had a good season. Online, Amazon totally rocked, as the Associated Press reported today:
Online retailer Amazon.com Inc. called this holiday season its "best ever," saying Friday that it saw a 17 percent increase in orders on its busiest day -- a rare piece of good news in a season that has been far from merry for most retailers, including online businesses.
It's not enough to simply have an online store. Amazon has a lot of elements that make it attractive: inventory, pricing, free shipping, and a website that works hard to help you find the product you're really looking for, even if it's not the product you thought you were looking for when you logged in.

Our household did most of its Christmas shopping online (quite a bit of it at Amazon). Shopping at the local retail store is a crapshoot. Do they sell what I'm looking for? Is it in stock? How does their price compare with the place two miles away?

Online, I know if it's in stock; I know what the other guys are charging; I don't pay sales tax (in most cases); and if I plan ahead a little, I can get the products in a week or so with no shipping charges (Amazon and a few others).

Is there really any surprise that most of the brick-and-mortar retailers are suffering? The Current Unpleasantness in the economy has simply accelerated a trend that was already underway.

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