E-commerce is going very differently for merchants, a new survey shows. While some e-merchants saw an increase in business of more than 10 percent during the first three months of 2009, others saw sales drop by at least that amount.
Practical eCommerce, an e-commerce site and magazine, created the survey to see how merchants were fairing during tough economic times. It found that 34.6 percent of respondents saw at least a 10 percent increase in sales from January to March compared to the same time last year. Some reported growth of more than 30 percent. But about 29 percent of participants said their sales fell 10 percent or more.
"One merchant said sales were off by more than 50 percent," Practical eCommerce reports.
Still, others say their sales are doing very well compared to last year. There may be several reasons for the two very distinct trends, Practical eCommerce notes.
Sales at brick-and-mortar shops are "stagnant," and since one-in-five respondents have a physical store location, it may be a reason for decreased sales.
"The [economic] atmosphere has kept customers away from in-store shopping," one respondent says. "Those who do shop make purchases and then have them shipped to their residence to keep their purchases on the down low from the public eye."
Those feeling the pinch are probably smaller businesses that do less than $100,000 in sales every year because they have less money saved up. And that can lead companies to postpone restocking inventory, which only further decreases sales, Practical eCommerce reports.
One respondent tells Practical eCommerce he has put off buying replacement inventory and new inventory because of the tough economy.
"When a product is out of stock, it cannot be sold and sales fall," Practical eCommerce reports. "Tight budgets can also mean that smaller merchants are likely to stop advertising before their larger cousins, again leading to a dramatic decline in total sales."
While the survey raised a lot of questions, it did show that vendors in certain sectors such as home, furniture and gardening did see an increase in sales.
"We find these merchant surveys very insightful," notes Armando Roggio, contributing editor for Practical eCommerce. "We frequently obtain feedback that we wouldn't have guessed, and we know our readers benefit from them, too."
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Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.