Survey: Retailers still lag in stocking merchandise

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E-commerce performance ratings have risen in the past year, with improvements in in-stock availability and merchandise quality, a survey from Millard Group Inc.'s Decision Direct Research claims.

More than 54 percent of consumer respondents gave an "excellent" rating to "merchandise in stock when I order," up 6 percentage points over last year. "High quality merchandise" got a 61 percent excellent score, up 5 points from 2005. Yet these scores should be higher, said Lilliane LeBel, vice president of Decision Direct Research, Peterborough, NH.

"The most important finding is that multichannel retailers still do not have merchandise in stock when a customer visits the Web site," she said. "These results are from the fall survey conducted in late October/early November. Companies should not be out of stock on merchandise at this early point in the season."

The quarterly survey analyzes responses from 47,000 online shoppers.

Ms. LeBel stressed keeping merchandise in stock this holiday season, both for catalogers and online retailers.

"What this means for marketers is that if someone goes to a Web site and finds the item that they want to be out of stock, they'll go somewhere else to find it," she said. "And chances are they'll continue going to that other site. You may have lost that customer forever."

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