Frankfurt General Newspaper

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung vom 19.12.2013, Nr. 295, S. 15, Author: Christine Scharrenbroch
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Provided by the Frankfurt General Archive

The shop on the Cologne Friesensstrasse stands out: old floor boards, high wooden shelves, an antique bureau, stucco decorations on the roof and a chandelier. With its label John Crocket, owner Thomas Schmitz relies on classic British fashion. The cashmere sweaters come from Scotland as well as the tweed for the jackets, which are sewn according to their own designs in Turkey. However, most of the clothing is no longer sold at the store, but via the 1997-started online shop.
"We have many customers in Hamburg, in southern Germany and in the east," says the 55-year-old Schmitz. Orders come also from Austria and Switzerland. During his studies in Ireland, the economist once discovered his liking for British fashion. Out of the trunk of his car he sold the first sweaters to friends. 1987 Schmitz opened his business in Cologne, followed later by branches in Bonn and Dusseldorf.
In the wake of the increase in the British pound, he had to close the shop in Dusseldorf in 1997, and in the economic and financial crisis 2008 the Bonn branch. Instead, Schmitz placed great emphasis on online commerce.

In the meantime, his one-time million turnover comes to three quarters from the network. "Online is our future," Schmitz says. No thought at the moment of reopening branches in addition to the Cologne business. "The rent and personnel costs are too high."
..."Even smaller traders have to show their products online," says Kai Hudetz, Managing Director of the Institute for Commercial Research (IFH) in Cologne. While it is difficult for them to find another niche that promises a very large turnover in view of the great competition from the pure online providers,... According to Hudetz, an Internet presence is necessary only in terms of customer loyalty. It is well known that many customers want to get information online before buying. "If a trader is not active with an online shop on the Internet, it looks bad," brings to the point Gerrit Heinemann, who heads the eWeb Research Center at Niederrhein University.

The stationary trade can be "taken the words out of his mouth" by the pure Internet retailers. Under strong pressure, Heinemann is expected to see suppliers in the segments particularly affected by online competition: in the case of the printed book, Heinemann estimates the online share up to 40 percent, in the case of electronics products up to 30 percent and in the case of toys and shoes up to one quarter.
According to IFH, almost thirty percent of all retailers in the country now operate their own web shop....and even for smaller retailers, Internet expert Heinemann recommends linking offline and online business. "Both channels must be intelligently linked, there is no longer a dividing line between them." The British continued in this respect: "There is the customer who stands with the smartphone in the store and asks about the product information."