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Adapting to the expanding universe of ecommerce

Traditional retailers worldwide have spent the last two years watching the Internet trade threaten their businesses.

Ecommerce sales are skyrocketing, and have made serious inroads into shopping patterns."Margins in retail have been less and less," says Ian Watt, managing director of Old Mutual Properties.

"Bricks and mortar" retailers are dealing with the threat in different ways, by creating their own Web sites and in many cases, by integrating their Internet operations into their physical stores. The last option has created the burgeoning "clicks and mortar" operations. Some retailers in the US are even putting up Internet kiosks in their stores, with integrated Web access into its cash registers.

"The expectation is that consumers will buy more of their drudgery items through the internet and continue to enjoy the social aspect of shopping." In South Africa, says Watt, retailers are focusing on creating an "experience" environment where the buyer pays to spend time enjoying a series of memorable events that a retailer stages. And Watt believes that is ultimately why consumers still go to the "brick and mortar" stores.

"We believe and have invested in the fact that facetoface business is the most compelling drama of our time. And will continue to be so."