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Federal Government to host online retail forum

Thursday, 3 February 2011 | By Michelle Hammond

Small retailers are being invited to attend a Federal Government online retail forum later this month, designed to encourage Australian retailers to explore online business options.


The forum will be hosted by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, and comes on the back of an announcement that the Productivity Commission is compiling a report about the future of Australia’s burgeoning online retail sector.


To be held in Sydney on February 18, participants will hear from some of the country’s largest online retailers including eBay, PayPal and Deals Direct.


The forum will also feature organisations including Google, Australia Post and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, all of whom will discuss the logistics of online retail and the rights of the online shopper.


Start-up retailer Shoes of Prey will also take part in the event, with the aim of showcasing how smaller businesses can capitalise on the internet.


Michael Fox, Shoes of Prey co-founder and blogger for StartupSmart, says the company is planning to discuss its growth as a way of inspiring more retailers to sell online.


“Approximately 60% of our sales come from customers outside Australia so we'll be sharing some insights into how we've achieved this to hopefully encourage other Australian retailers to look to selling their products to overseas markets so we can ideally build a strong online retail export industry within Australia,” Fox says.


“We’re also quite vocal about some of the problems facing the Australian online retail industry… I assume it’s for these reasons we were selected to be on the panel.”


Senator Conroy said in a statement the provision of an online information and sales channel is an important part of any discussion about the future of Australian retail.


“Buying and selling online can deliver benefits to Australian businesses in the form of greater efficiencies, broader customer base and increased revenues,” Conroy said.


“[The forum is designed] to assist Australian businesses, particularly small businesses, to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital economy.”


Conroy said the event is also an opportunity to show retailers how they can expand their business ahead of the National Broadband Network.


“The reliable, ubiquitous, high-speed broadband that the NBN will deliver will bring more Australians online and allow Australian retailers to expand their market and enhance their online offerings,” he said.


Speaker Paul Greenberg, chief executive of Deals Direct, says the forum comes at a time when online retailing is beginning to gain pace among all kinds of consumers.


“The promise of broadband is changing the way people view online retail. We know there are plenty of advantages here, and it will be great to talk about them,” Greenberg says.


“I don’t think there’s going to be a hard and fast agenda going into the forum, but it will be a great opportunity to talk about where we are going and some of the challenges going forward.”


GraysOnline chief executive Cameron Poolman says while the agenda of any discussions is not yet finalised, he hopes to discuss some issues facing retailers including inventory.


“I think the challenge for local online retail will be getting content, and inventory. But that’s the market determining that, and we have very strong retailers now online and so I think in time that will change,” he says.


For more information, visit www.dbcde.gov.au/onlineretail.