Mr Price

FASHION retailer Mr Price's online store will be live on Monday July 30, CEO Stuart Bird confirmed on Tuesday.

The retailer aims to use its venture into e-commerce to help it gain market share from rivals Foschini, Woolworths and Truworths. Competition in the clothing space has also been boosted with the arrival in South Africa of foreign groups such as Zara and Cotton-On.

"An online selling capability will enable Mr Price to further strengthen relationships with our target customers, who are tech savvy and require a convenient and secure way to get their fashion," Mr Bird said. "Customers around the country will be able to access the full range of merchandise that was previously only possible by shopping at one of the larger stores."

By global standards, e-commerce in South Africa is relatively limited, although online retail sales have shown a steady increase over the past five years as a growing number of tech-savvy consumers turn to the net for bargain hunting.

Mr Price's online store, which will also be accessible via cellphones, will offer the full Apparel range of about 18000 fashion items. It will cost shoppers R35 per delivery anywhere in South Africa and offer several methods of payment.

The store will also be accessible via cellphones.

Mr Price Home and Mr Price Sport are expected to follow with online stores next year.

The integration of a retailer's offline and online presence is often referred to as a "bricks and clicks" or "clicks and mortar" business model. It has been easier for traditional retailers with extensive logistics and supply chains to implement this type of model than for start-up companies.

Syd Vianello, analyst at Nedbank Securities, said he was not surprised that Mr Price was going the e-commerce route.

"If consumers trust the brand and are relaxed, they will buy the product online," he said. "Woolworths has moved in that direction. It's what's happening overseas - people are buying the George line from Asda online, as well as other big brands online."

MasterCard's Worldwide Online Shopping Survey, released earlier this year, said that the number of South Africans shopping online had steadily increased over the past two years, with 58% of respondents saying they used the internet for shopping - an increase from 53% in 2010.

According to Arthur Goldstuck, MD of internet research provider World Wide Worx, once people become experienced internet users, their propensity to shop online increases dramatically.

"The key is to convert that propensity into shopping behaviour," he said, adding that from 2013 the participation curve would rise significantly and quickly, leading to growth in the number of online shoppers and shopping options available.

mooradz@bdfm.co.za