This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

August 2, 2006

Retail Resurgence

Over the past decade, we have seen false and failed starts in online retailing. The market wasnít ready. The technology wasnít ready. Forward-looking retail entrepreneurs were too far ahead of their time and lost a lot of money. The Internet retail movement lost momentum, as well.

Major retailers, as well as thousands of smaller enterprises, have continued to play in the world of electronic relationships, while protecting themselves with a sustaining brick-and-mortar presence. The feeling has been that Internet retail will explode someday; itís just a matter of time. Many retailers have struggled to maintain a presence on the web so they would be ready when that glorious time finally arrived.

The dawning of substantial retail business on the Internet may not be far away. Retailers are learning some techniques that are increasing customer comfortóand sales. Internet sales are expected to increase significantly in 2007---about 20 percent over 2006. Analysts project online sales of US$211 billion in 2006, with an augmentation beyond $250 billion next year.

Whatís the secret? Surprise! Itís the human touch. Sales growth is attributed in large part to the increase in interactive retail websites. These sales-oriented websites include a personal touch orientation toward customers. Questions are answered instantly using online chats. Product information is forthcoming through prompt, thorough, and friendly interchanges from well-trained customer service associates who know their stores, their merchandise, pricing, delivery, and techniques to assure customers are always happy and satisfied.

The resistance to Internet purchasing is gently being overcome by the courteous professionalism of customer advocates. Even though they canít touch, see, and feel the merchandise, they trust the learning and reassurance that flows through their screen.

As interactivity continues to have a positive impact on the field, there will be an increased demand for more knowledgeable, outgoing, and computer-literate retail clerks. This increase in demand comes at a time when brick-and-mortar retailers are having difficulty finding retail clerks to engage in one-on-one conversations with their customers in traditional stores.

Opportunities are plentiful in online retail---for those who prepare with education, training, and experience---and they may live anywhere.

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