EDITORIAL: Who Will Win?

As the stock market continues its seesaw antics, it’s becoming evident that the bricks may win over the clicks in the end — at least if the old-line powerhouses keep adapting to the new way of doing business. An edge many of the traditional retailers and catalogers have over their cyber counterparts: They can spread their fixed costs over much higher volumes (think Wal-Mart). They also have firmly established brand identities and operations.

An item in last week’s Wall Street Journal said consumers want choices on how they get the goods, too, because home delivery isn’t always convenient. That’s another plus in the traditional companies’ column. Meanwhile, CDW Computer Centers saw its stock price soar last month because of a strong first quarter. Analyst David Manthey attributed the high earnings to the company’s excellent customer service levels in its 20 years of business. Other catalogers didn’t fare too poorly, and some saw increases as well, while Amazon.com, DoubleClick and other Internet stocks took quite a beating.

Why the shakeout now? Wall Street and venture capitalists are finally saying enough to financing companies that lose money year after year. But how long will they find true happiness with the traditional catalogers and retailers?

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