By Claire Reilly

Tucked away in Woolworths' profit announcements last week was the revelation that Woolworths’ dedicated home improvement chain would be launching an online retail offering in 2012.

With Masters currently selling a large selection of home appliances, ranging from whitegoods and wet goods to cooking appliances and more, our interest was piqued. To find out more about the new offering, sat down to talk shop with Clare Buchanan, the group manager of corporate communications at Masters’ parent company, Woolworths Limited.

According to Buchanan, the new site will be up “within the next few months” (although an official launch date is being kept under wraps), with the full range of products expected to be rolled out progressively as time passes.

“There are all sorts of opportunities, and certainly appliances are a key feature of our store, so it’s not unreasonable to expect them to be part of our online offer at some point," she said.

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And as for the reasoning behind the e-commerce venture, Buchanan said online was increasingly becoming more important for retailers, and the Masters site was the perfect way to complement the in-store Masters experience.

“I think you can sell virtually anything online these days – it’s all about convenience,” said Buchanan. “And people may well come into the store and browse, but they want the convenience of then being able to go home and think about it, measure it and then buy it online and have it delivered straight to their house.

“I don’t think it’s a question of shopping either in store or online, it’s about how the two integrate together.

“Woolworths as a whole has a very very strong focus at the moment on building a multi-option retail business. We know that customers who shop both online and in store are amongst our most valuable customers.

“It’s all about just working out how customers want to shop and adapting our business to their changing behaviour. Everyone’s got a mobile phone in their pocket these days, and most of us have smartphones, so people want the convenience of being able to browse, shop and order pretty much wherever they are.

Buchanan insisted that the online site would also benefit suppliers, who would see increased exposure of their brands in the marketplace.

“It can only be a positive [for suppliers],” she said. “It just increases the opportunity for sales and it increases the opportunity for brand awareness. Any way that helps the customer make the purchase has got to be encouraged.”

And what kinds of prices can consumers expect when the site goes live?

“Our bricks and mortar stores already price match to online prices of online retailers,” said Buchanan. “We would price match against a number of competitors to make sure we were actually the lowest in the market.”