By Martin Vedris

SYDNEY: Gerry Harvey in particular has been a vocal critic of online retailing but John Hughes, managing director of Radio Rentals Australia, which owns the newly-launched Big Brown Box online retail site, says the Australian retail icon has got it "wrong".

“Gerry is a great professional, a terrific guy,” said Hughes, “This one I think he’s got wrong.”

While Hughes says that not every product is suited to being sold online, he says that there is a key component in choosing the correct product categories for an online store, and that electrical products are suited to the online environment.

“The one thing that I would agree with Gerry on is that the product that people do want to come in and see and feel and touch is lounge room furniture, dining room suites, and bedroom furniture. But we do a lot of business over the telephone and through our internet site at radio Rentals.”

Other keys for online retailing success, according to Hughes, is selling branded product, not cheap generic imports, and free delivery.

“A lot of customers today are time poor, they trust branded product, they know the sort of product they want and they’re more than happy to deal with a reputable organisation over the internet, particularly if they can get free delivery and a great price.”

Radio Rentals is a Narta member, so it has the buying power and supplier relationships in place. In addition, a lot of Radio Rentals business is already conducted over the phone and internet. This is another reason why Hughes feels Big Brown Box will work.

“We already do, through our Radio Rentals business, some 70 per cent of our business over the telephone, where people don’t come into our store but they will order, through our Rent, Try, Buy program, washing machines, refrigerators, plasmas, LCDs, whatever."