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 NEW YORK, Jan. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- New consumer research presented at the National Retail Federation (NRF) convention here today shows that consumers often feel they are being forced to shop elsewhere by poor service from some retailers. Sixty-two percent said they had decided to buy a product in a store in the past six months, but gave up and left because sales clerks were not available when needed.
 Sponsored by MasterCard International and conducted by Yankelovich Partners, the report says 60 percent of the shoppers reported unmet product information needs in stores because sales help was not knowledgeable enough. Safety was another concern, with only 25 percent feeling that shopping malls provide a safe and secure shopping environment.
 These complaints were particularly prevalent among television and computer shoppers, indicating that these problems led them to their alternative shopping methods. Forty-nine percent of consumers rated television shopping as "excellent" at providing a safe and secure shopping environment, while 72 percent said computer shopping provides this. Electronic home shopping was also viewed by many as providing convenient hours and time savings, and TV shoppers feel that home shopping hosts are entertaining and provide a tremendous amount of information about the products they sell.
 The report signals that retailers who do not address these issues may find it particularly costly since the television and computer shoppers interviewed appear to be more affluent than traditional shoppers. The median incomes of computer and television shoppers interviewed were $52,000 and $37,200 respectively, compared to $29,400 for traditional store shoppers.
 Awakening Giant?
 Electronic home shopping currently accounts for less than one percent of total retail sales in this country. But home shopping channels such as QVC and Home Shopping Network, infomercials and computer shopping generated more than $3 billion in sales in 1993 and the category is experiencing a dramatic 20 percent annual sales increase. Various industry leaders predict that electronic home shopping will grow to somewhere between $30 billion and $250 billion in annual sales within 10 years.
 "There's no doubt that tremendous advances are coming in electronic home shopping," says Ted Jablonski, MasterCard's vice president of retail markets. "It's going to become more interactive and personalized and there will be an explosion in choices of shopping channels, formats, opportunities, products and services, There will be something for everyone, including today's traditional retailers, in electronic home shopping."
 Television and computer shopping is expected to become far more interactive, with consumers able to call up product categories at will and even put their own images on the screen to "try on" clothing, for instance, and get a better idea of how they will look in the actual garment.
 Electronic home shopping is being aided by the increasing comfort level that consumers have with technology.
 "Americans are losing their technophobia," says Watts Wacker of Yankelovich Partners, the research firm that conducted the survey. "More and more people view technology as a tool to make life easier. For instance, 66 percent of those interviewed agreed that new technologies like bank ATM cards have made their lives easier."
 Nor is product quality the hurdle that it once was in electronic home shopping. Both consumers and retailers believe that the brand image of goods sold through home shopping channels is improving.
 But stores and shopping malls still have the advantages of more nationally known brands, "in-person" product contact and the social aspect of going out to shop. Consumers interviewed said that the ability to touch, feel and be certain about sizes and colors was particularly important when shopping for clothing.
 With electronic shopping expected to undergo dramatic growth, however, traditional retailers need to focus even more on what they can do to retain and regain customers.
 "They need to focus on improving service and the overall shopping environment," says MasterCard's Jablonski. "Consumers want attention and knowledgeable, efficient service, and they want to feel that their safety is being protected. Retailers should exploit their strengths in providing human and merchandise contact. Perhaps most important, retailers need to bring more entertainment and pleasure back to the shopping arena. All of these elements can be combined with assurances of overall value to make 'going out to shop' a more satisfying, anticipated experience."
 Jablonski says that retailers may yet find tremendous revenue potential in their own electronic shopping ventures. Such retailing giants and R.H. Macy and Nordstrom have announced plans to launch new television shopping ventures this year. Among others reportedly considering it are The May Department Stores Co. and mail-order powerhouse Fingerhut.
 -0- 1/17/94
 /CONTACT: Gordon Clark of The Rowland Company, 212-527-8874/

CO: National Retail Federation ST: New York IN: REA SU:

TM -- NY004 -- 2369 01/17/94 08:03 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 17, 1994

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