SHOPA REPORT: INTERNET MAY ALTER HOME-OFFICE INDUSTRY

DAYTON, Ohio -- The Internet is being viewed as having the potential to transform the entire school, home-office industry.d Home Office Products Association.The report says that several industry players are already using the Internet either as an electronic catalog to generate additional sales, or as a means to advertise their products and provide additional consumer information.In an industry where

DAYTON, Ohio -- The Internet is being viewed as having the potential to transform the entire school, home-office industry.

d Home Office Products Association.

The report says that several industry players are already using the Internet either as an electronic catalog to generate additional sales, or as a means to advertise their products and provide additional consumer information.

In an industry where catalog use is already widespread, it is believed that school, home office products could benefit from being marketed through electronic commerce.

"The industry can take advantage of the predictability and consistency of its products. Few consumers will receive merchandise that differs vastly from their expectations about what they ordered," the report states.

Distribution within the industry is well-established and efficient enough to be able to fulfill orders placed through electronic commerce in a short time frame. The report documents increased Internet usage with an estimated 56 million users last year of which 70% were business users. The number of web sites also grew from 370 in 1994 to 172,000 this year. The impact of electronic commerce could potentially change the very nature of the customer/retailer relationship, the report states. In theory, manufacturers and wholesalers could more easily market directly to consumers. Other examples of how this relationship could be impacted include: consumers could compare prices more easily and they could divide their orders among various firms more easily.