For E-tail, There's Nowhere To Go But Up

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The timing couldn't be better for consumer electronics e-tailers, who are coming of age at the dawn of the digital revolution.

Fueled by a fresh generation of high-tech items, and the widespread acceptance of e-commerce, cyberstores say they are especially well positioned to share in the industry's newfound bounty.

"I don't think there's ever been a better time to be in consumer electronics," said Keith Clougherty, chairman and founder of Roxy.com. "We're just entering the digital cycle now, and no one knows what it will spawn in terms of products. We just see a continuous stream of new products and manufacturers, with shorter intervals between introductions and a wider array of peripheral products. So you get a funnel effect of high-technology products."

To ride herd over the revolution, Clougherty said, he will "continue to invest in the business by adding expertise and better interaction between our folks and customers. We're just starting. It's only the bottom of the first inning."

Things are also looking up at online CE specialist 800.com. "We're looking at a long run of successful business in the consumer electronics industry," said VP/merchandising Frank Sadowski. "The renewed interest in technology will bode very well for retailers focused on value-added products and name brands, and e-commerce will continue to play a part in that."

Jean Pierre Le Dour, general manager of Cybershop subsidiary Electronics.net, said the sky's the limit for CE e-tailers. "This industry is going to be very viable online. Although you're going to see a lot of repositioning this year, it's going to keep growing and growing. There's nothing that will inhibit its rate of growth."

Agreed Christopher Payne, general manager at Amazon.com, "2000 is going to be a good year. The playing field is wide open, and although we don't have a lot of history in the CE space, I can't help but think this category will explode online this year." - Alan Wolf

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