May 14, 2010, 3:45 PM

Something to believe in: Chains can’t afford to be agnostic

A few years ago, successful retailers were said to be channel agnostic.

A few years ago, successful retailers were said to be channel agnostic. Turns out, the consumer is not channel agnostic. Two recent reports offer evidence that consumers are continuing to shift their buying online. And the big, real-estate-invested chains are paying the price.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported online sales were up 14.3% in 2010’s first quarter vs. growth of 3.4% at stores, excluding supermarkets. The just-out Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide reports that within the Top 500, where sales grew 8.8%, web-only merchants grew their collective sales by 19.7% while chains grew theirs by 6.6%. Equally interesting, for 26 of the 50 chains, e-commerce sales grew while comp store sales dropped. For 11 others, web sales grew faster than or didn’t decline as much as comp stores sales.

Chains who remain channel agnostic while consumers become Internet believers  are giving market share away to the web-only merchants and to their competitors who well crafted web strategies.

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