e-shops in Czech Republic get upper hand over stone & mortar stores

Photo: archive of Radio Prague

e-shops in the Czech Republic are expected to get a jump on shopping centres and other outlets in pre-Christmas sales, according to a new poll by GE Money Bank. This will be a first for internet dealers in the country.

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
Czechs traditionally spend a lot ahead of the Christmas holidays and by most measures December 2014 will be no different. Only this year, according to GE Money Banks’ study, consumers will spend over the internet, than at malls or street-level stores. Internet sales have been rising since September, and Czechs, it has been estimated, will spend at least 21 billion crowns for presents on the internet alone. That, Czech Radio reported Tuesday, translates into an average of 3,000 – 5,000 crowns per consumer.

Just as interesting, is that Czechs will order more expensive items over the net, costing ten or more thousand crowns, the head of the Association for Electronic Commerce Jan Vetyška said. Most often, these include home appliances and other electronic items. According to the association, up to 80 percent of Czechs who buy gifts for friends or loved ones this holiday season, will buy at least one item online.

The reasons why the internet has proven so appealing are manifold, not least that many online stores have existed long enough now to establish strong reputations, or are associated with dependable already existing brands. New legislation has also strengthened consumer protection, streamlining regulations for the return of items and funds.

And then there are contrasts between internet and stone & mortar shops: internet dealers are often able to offer more attractive prices, considerably lower than shops factoring in high rent, labour and matekting and overhead costs. They are able to stock more than smaller retailers unwilling to risk ordering too much stock, and therefore offer more variety than some of their brick & mortar competitors. Any parent who has visited some of the sports venues at Czech malls, for example, know they will find "lots on offer" for children but not necessarily for their age group: lack of enough different children’s shoe sizes, for example, is an all-too-common experience in marked contrast to the net.

The obvious drawbacks? One, obviously, is not being able to look at or try items up close. Another, not all sellers are equal: some may try to incur hidden charges or provide less-than-professional results, sending packages late. For that, it is recommended to use sites which have built in guaranteed feedback from customers.

Currently, there are more than 37,000 e-shops on the Czech market which has possibly also led to another trend of sorts: many shoppers visiting retail stores not to buy but to research, opting to order the same product from elsewhere for less once they get home.