Ecommerce Sales Thrive While Retail Sales Dive

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Ken Niezgoda, BIZ Reporter

If you’re a small retail business owner looking for that hedge against the recession, you may not have to look any further than the screen that’s currently in front of your nose.  While retail sales have dropped off, ecommerce sales continue to show gains nationally.

“E-commerce sales for the third quarter of 2008, adjusted for seasonal variation, but not for price changes, was $34.4 billion, an increase of 0.3” over the previous quarter, according to The Census Bureau Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales Report for the 3rd Quarter 2008 (see here). During the same period, overall retail sales dropped off 1.4 percent over the previous quarter, according to the report.

The report also shows that percentage of ecommerce sales to overall retail sales has continue to grow steadily since 1999.

What does that mean for the small business owner? While overall retail sales continue to decline, one solution may be to tap into a market that shows steady growth by developing an ecommerce site to supplement existing sales.

“For the small retailer, it’s never been easier,” said Scott Hendison of Portland-based Search Commander, Inc., an Internet marketing consulting firm. Hendison said the startup cost scales upward from $2500. “You just need to make sure there is a market online for what you are selling that’s big enough for you to make the investment.”

Several options are available. Ecommerce software packages offer a solution but require more than a cursory knowledge of the technology involved. Several affordable, open source options are available (See Here) as well as higher-end solutions, such as NetSuite.

For most small businesses without IT personnel on staff, deploying ecommerce solutions typically requires hiring an outside consultant. Contact your Internet service provider for assistance or the Oregon Computer Consultants Association (http://www.occa.org) to find a consultant in your area.

SaaS (software as a service) solutions are another ecommerce option. With a SaaS solution, the business does not invest money in software or hardware. All hosting is done by the SaaS provider at an off-site location for a monthly subscription fee. Startup cost and time are generally less (see http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/56905.html).