January 10, 2003, 12:00 AM

How the web extends the reach of appliance sellers

A full 18% of shoppers at Whirlpool.com are online between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. daily and Sundays, a time when most appliance stores are closed, Whirlpool tells Internet Retailer.

One of the benefits of web-based shopping, says advocates, is that it allows time-stressed consumers to shop any time they want to. Appliance manufacturers and retailers are finding that’s true. A full 18% of shoppers at Whirlpool.com are online between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. daily and Sundays, Ray Brahams, manager of Whirlpool Corp.’s eWhirlpool Group b2b, tells Internet Retailer. “That’s a time when most appliance stores are closed, so it gets back to the convenience factor,” he says.

Appliance customers shop at Whirlpool.com, then when they are ready to make a purchase, the site prompts them to enter a ZIP Code. The site delivers a choice of local retailers from which to buy. The arrangement is part of an appliance industry initiative to create common product data and images for use at manufacturers’, buying cooperatives’ and retailers’ web sites. JGSullivan Interactive Inc. of Chicago creates and maintains the sites.

To participate with manufacturers, retailers must agree to certain standards, including responding to an e-mail order within 24 hours of when it is received. Retailers participating in the Whirlpool program represent 7,000 stores, Brahams reports. He expects that to grow another 20% this year. In addition to independent retailers, Whirlpool participants include Sears, Roebuck and Co., with Best Buy Co. Inc. and Lowe’s Cos. Inc. coming on within weeks.

JGSullivan has developed web sites for the six major appliance manufacturer brands and for the major buying co-ops. In addition, the manufacturers fund informational sites for 6,000 independent appliance dealers, while another 850 independents pay $595 a year for e-commerce-enabled sites.

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