E-Tailing and its Prospects: Great Expectations Reconsidered
This paper attributes slower than predicted growth in e-commerce retailing to four factors: consumer resistance; the ability of traditional retailers to become multi-channel sellers; prudent official survey and classification practices; and perhaps the limited range of “pure-play” business models (i.e., retail models that rely mainly on electronic sales). Based on responses to the Census Bureau’s Monthly Retail Trade Survey (MRTS) in the five fourth quarter periods from 2001 to 2005, the paper finds that e-commerce has claimed a small but rapidly growing share of U.S. retailing markets; and that pure play companies are still important drivers of this process. However, it also finds that the capacity of pure-play companies to continue in this role may be nearing its limits, and that the rate of continued growth in e-commerce retailing may depend on the business decisions of large, multi-channel sellers. Qualified researchers can access MRTS-based quarterly e-commerce data for 2001-2005 at the Census Bureau’s Regional Data Centers.
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