Point/Counterpoint. Part 1

A couple of issues ago, here is what we wrote,

Canadian Internet guru Jim Carroll doesn’t believe in Online shopping. “All of this Online shopping and credit card buying stuff is a bunch of silliness–the real potential of the Net is found in business-to-business communications,” he says. In our opinion, he is off-line. The two are not mutually exclusive. He took this view some time ago and refuses to budge from it. Besides the easily quantifiable items like CD’s and books, people are buying mortgages and insurance Online. Online stock trading has become big business and those of us who are doing Internet banking would never switch to an institution that didn’t offer it. So c’mon Jim, get with the program.

Obviously, Jim was not pleased with our comments and he wrote back the following (reprinted in its entirety)

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Tom,

I just bought flowers for my wife a few days ago through the Net. I bought tickets for the Rolling Stones through TicketMaster a few weeks back. I just agreed with a Dell PR flack that yes, they are doing marvels selling computers online. I am just finishing off a book called RRSP’s and Mutual Funds Online which covers the online stock trading phenomena — and will probably sign up with ETrade at some point.

Having said that, I am a huge skeptic of online shopping outside of these few niche markets. And appeared on Canada AM last week saying so, for which a lot of people are complaining.

But the fact fact is this — if you take total retail sales in Canada, and measured Internet sales against that, it wouldn’t even be a blip.

Eatons is investing $100’s of millions of dollars to win back customers. That money — smart money, I think — is going into physical stores and not some silly online supermarket shopping mall Web site. I repeat — I think that is smart money. So do the folks on Wall Street and Bay St. who are financing this rejuvenation plan. You don’t see Eaton’s plowing its ventures into online shopping ventures. For that matter, you don’t see Wall Street and Bay Street plowing much money into any Internet shopping venture, other than Amazon.com.

Consider this — Chapters Bookstores spent their last annual meeting a few weeks back, talking about how they plowing their hundreds of millions of investment $$$’s into big bookstores — not online shopping malls. Are they wrong? I don’t think so — I’d invest my money with them.

I doubt that I, and many other people, will sign on to the Internet to get our pool chemicals to close our pool this weekend. I’ll go to a pool store. (I was in swimming on Monday!) I doubt that when I need to get some bird seed for my bird feeder, I’ll go online. I’ll go to a garden store.

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