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INTERNET HELPS SHOPPERS ESCAPE THE CHRISTMAS RUSH

From the mall to the living room

MORE Slovaks are skipping the crowded shops this year and buying their Christmas presents over the internet from home.

MORE Slovaks are skipping the crowded shops this year and buying their Christmas presents over the internet from home.

Online shops have reported a significant increase of holiday-season customers compared to last year.

“The first pre-Christmas weeks of this year showed there is an exceptional interest from Slovaks in doing their Christmas shopping on the internet,” said Martin Dernar, marketing manager for Internet Mall Slovakia. “Compared to last year, the main shopping season started two weeks earlier and we are recording a threefold year-on-year increase in orders.”

Pavel Gall from Hej.sk said the number of holiday-season orders grows every year, but this year, the increase is about 90 percent.

“And we believe that in the 12th month, we will succeed in recording a 100-percent increase,” Gall added.

Martinus, an online shop that specialises in books, saw its turnover go up by 30 to 40 percent before Christmas compared to other months of the year.

“In a year-on-year comparison, the increase is more than 100 percent,” said Michal Meško from Martinus.

The latest TNS SK survey showed that Slovaks like online shopping because it saves them time and it’s more comfortable.

“You will save the time you would spend running across shopping malls, and you can make an order from the comfort of your living room,” Gall said.

Lower prices are now valued considerably less than in the past, Dernar said.

Online buyers are also pleased about the information available on shopping sites and comments from other users about the products.

This year, online customers are mostly interested in LCD television sets, home theatres, notebook computers, digital cameras and small home appliances, such as designer espresso makers, according to internet shops. People also buy perfumes and watches more often in the Christmas season than in other months of the year.

Online bookshops have better sales on more expensive books, such as encyclopedias and photography books, at this time of the year. But fiction is still a popular Christmas present.

Online retail sales hit Sk500 million to Sk1 billion (€15 million to €30 million) in 2006, and in 2007 they have already reached Sk1.5 billion to Sk2.5 billion, according to information from the Internet Shop Today and Tomorrow workshop organised by Mall and Martinus in November.

About 18 percent of Slovaks, or one million people, have shopped online at least once in their life.

“This number is a bit higher in the Czech Republic and a bit lower in Poland,” Meško said.

More than half a million Slovaks visit the seven largest internet shops in Slovakia every month. The most popular items are books, CDs, DVDs, electronics, clothes, airline tickets, cosmetics and event tickets, according to the workshop information.

Slovaks know the advantages of online shopping, but the fact that customers cannot touch and test a product before buying it is still a barrier to the further growth of the sector. Some Slovaks still do not trust internet shops, or they had a bad first experience with online shopping and are not willing to risk it again.

However, the internet shops are optimistic about their future in Slovakia.

“Slovaks are learning about online shopping,” Meško said. “But in general we are still in the process of catching up with more developed countries, such as the USA and Western Europe, where this way of shopping is really a normal part of everyday life.”

Dernar said that Slovaks are estimated to be about three years behind their Czech neighbours in online shopping, but they can catch up fast.

Internet shopping is in a very favourable position, according to Gall, with internet penetration currently at about 35 to 40 percent in Slovakia.

Online sellers expect that people will continue to buy a large range of products online. They see books, CDs, DVDs, clothes, home appliances and services as the online commodities with the most growth potential.

“I, personally, am skeptical about the sale of fresh food on the internet,” Dernar said. “Otherwise it is possible to buy almost anything on the internet.”

The most visited online shops in Slovakia
Hej.sk 15 %
Quelle.sk 12 %
Martinus.sk 10 %
Nay.sk 7 %
Dunaj.sk 6 %
Neckermann.sk 5 %
Mall.sk 4 %
Ticketportal.sk 4 %

The top-rated online shops in Slovakia
Hej.sk 12 %
Martinus.sk 10 %
Quelle.sk 6 %
eBay.com 6 %
Amazon.com 5 %
Mall.sk 4 %
Nay.sk 4 %
Neckermann.sk 4 %

Source: TNS SK

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