The internet dilemma

Portalogue_Tim_PopeIt’s time for businesses without an internet presence to get on board and get online, says Tim Pope, of web-based business to business solutions specialist Portalogue.

Tim Pope is managing director of Portalogue Solutions Pty. Ltd. Fashion Exposed has teamed with Portalogue to extend the beneficial union of suppliers and retailers at the Fashion Exposed Trade Fairs to the internet, 365 days a year. 

Most retailers and suppliers in the fashion industry are still grappling with how to make the internet work for their business.

The younger generation ‘gets it’, but the baby-boomers in the fashion industry are being left behind due to a common perception that it’s all too hard and too expensive.

Then of course there are all those non-believers who have been re-assuring themselves with the notion that “the internet is NOT relevant to my business because people need to touch and feel before they buy”

Ironically, since the Aussie dollar has risen to near parity with the US dollar, the same non-believers have been up in arms about the number of sales they are losing to overseas merchants – and for good reason – consumers are flocking to web sites to get their fashion fix at ever increasing rates.

eBay has recently launched a brazen billboard campaign suggesting consumers should browse in Westfield and buy online. This may be a pre-emptive strike as Westfield, Myer and David Jones prepare to launch their own e-Commerce sites. Obviously the big boys in town believe the time is right to enter the online shopping space.

Portalogue_imageSo where does this leave Australia’s small-medium retailers and their suppliers?
The choice is simple. Either get onboard (or should I say online) or be left behind.
Increasingly, suppliers are looking to go direct to the end consumer, reasoning that “if others are going to sell my products online why shouldn’t I?”…. and if suppliers sell at RRP this argument has some merit.

The retailers however may question such a strategy, arguing that the end-consumer belongs to them as a reward for buying and selling the supplier’s products within their stores.

This begs the obvious question … how can the fashion industry add value to their businesses by using the internet to generate more online AND in-store sales without incurring massive costs or wasting precious time?

The simple answer is for suppliers and retailers to learn how to work together in the new world.
It is time for a new way of thinking. The fact is, the world-wide-web offers businesses so much more than Google and e-commerce shopping carts. It’s time for the fashion industry to utilise the internet in a holistic way to increase sales and improve business efficiencies.

I’m a baby-boomer and I was involved in the fashion industry for 20 years before I got seriously involved in internet technology. Having been at the coal-face of fashion manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing, I am convinced there is a better way.

Retailers and suppliers have a unique opportunity to save money and reduce time wasted every day by replacing expensive, out-dated technologies such as phone, fax, mail campaigns, catalogues and a multitude of unrelated files, brochures, flyers and spreadsheets with dynamic and inexpensive web based alternatives. The end goal must be to use the internet as a business tool that will optimise information in an endless number of ways without having to ‘reinvent the wheel’ each time.

Just as retailers benefit by coming to Fashion Exposed to meet their key suppliers under one roof, so too can they benefit from a single web destination where they can find the information needed to buy their preferred brands. Such an information hub is now available on the internet where fashion suppliers can link price lists and catalogues to the retailers of their choice. It’s not about replacing sales reps or ‘touch and feel’, it’s all about replacing old technology with new. It’s all about saving time and money with a system that can do so much more than a phone call or fax ever will AND it’s all about saving considerable time and money in the process.

The ‘holy grail’ is a holistic web based system that helps retailers make more informed decisions when ordering indents, in-season refills or specials….a system that has integrated business tools to help balance merchandise assortments, manage inventory, automatically file orders and create reports that staff can see with ease. And this internet solution can also be a place where retailers can link supplier’s products, images and information to their own websites with the simple click of a button, rather than spending more and more time managing their websites and less and less time on their retail floor. Now link this same information to inexpensive electronic catalogues that can be targeted to known customers and linked back to websites instead of expensive mail-drops that have low conversion ‘hit’ rates….and the list of opportunities goes on and on.


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