The problems with brick-and-mortar companies trying to work the Web are well documented. Barnes & Noble allowed Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) to grab market share. Toys R Us was blindsided by eToys Inc. (Nasdaq: ETYS) and is still fumbling.
But there is a growing number of retailers making noise as e-tailers and threatening those high-flying .coms. Hybrids could be the wave of the future if they can drop silly concerns about protecting existing business.
| Hybrids: Finally getting it? |
The rise of hybrids makes sense considering real-world retailers can leverage infrastructure and customer data assets on the Internet. Note Amazon is spending millions to build real-world distribution centers.
That infrastructure is why Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) could actually become the "Wal-Mart of the Web." Of course, we'll see what Wal-Mart can offer when it relaunches its site this fall.
Meanwhile, the horror stories are aplenty. Toys R Us lost a key partnership with Silicon Valley venture capital firm Benchmark Capital and two CEOs -- one in the real world and one for Toysrus.com. Toys R Us continues to say it will be a leading toy e-tailer, but we'll believe it when we see it.
In a recent research note, Lauren Cooks Levitan, an analyst for BancBoston Robertson Stephens, dropped some kudos to some existing retailers that have integrated the real world with e-commerce.
Here's a look at a few hybrids that get it.
Other examples of hybrids that get the Web can be found in PC Data's July Web retail figures.
"Gap already was the 38th most visited shopping site during July, and we expect this ranking to improve as a result of this broadened online exposure," said Levitan.
And these hybrids are just examples of what's to come. This holiday season will be telling for retailers such as Federated's Macy's, Wal-Mart and a host of others. The hybrid movement is most evident in the drug/pharmacy market. Real world stores such as Rite Aid and CVS are teaming up with .coms so there won't be any Amazon-like ambushes.
For investors, the risks with hybrids are fairly clear -- you never know much about the online plans because it represents a small amount of revenue. We'll check in on other hybrids as the e-commerce talk heats up.