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September 15th, 2008Web now retail necessity

by Donna Balancia
FloridaToday.com

Rick Martis’ Physical Addictions supplement store in Indialantic does a brisk walk-in retail business, but his customer base has grown well beyond the municipal borders.

“I would say my business is one-third walk-in, one-third by phone, and one-third Internet-driven,” Martis said. “You have to have an Internet presence today, if not to sell your goods, to promote your business.”

Like most retailers today, Martis believes online selling is a necessity and not an option. He and others are countering the sluggish economy and winning customers from around the world by putting their wares online as well as in stores.

And in many cases, online retailing is outpacing their traditional, in-person sales because of perks like free shipping and no tax.

Nationally, online sales have more than doubled from $52.9 billion in 2003 to $122.7 billion last year, according to Coms

Sore, a Chicago-based research company that tracks Internet spending and sales data.

“Online commerce is growing at a significantly faster rate than total retail sales,” said Andrew Lipsman, senior analyst with ComScore. Lipsman said online now represents about 7 to 8 percent of total retail spending.

Martis has witnessed that surge.

“Each year my online business grows about 10 percent,” he said.

Before the Internet was commonplace, Martis started his mail order business to enhance his retail store sales. He took out ads in the back of bodybuilding magazines and promoted his 800- number, which generated millions of dollars in sales.

“Then the Internet came along in the 1990s and I was swamped with competition. I went from one of the top 10 sellers of supplements to one in thousands.”

So he created his own Internet presence, leveling the playing field with his competition and introducing his products to people who may not have been aware of them.

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