Retailers using the Internet today say security concerns are not a critical issue for them because they transmit proprietary information over separate private networks.
"You're safer that way," said Joe Fortes, network administrator at Raley's Supermarkets, West Sacramento, Calif. "Performance is another issue. Everyone is jumping on the Internet. When you have your own network, you have fast performance, instant access."
Some companies maintain private networks that have gateways to the Internet. "These networks run basically the same protocol as the Internet. It's just that they are more secure," said Mike Wallace, manager of management information systems at Independent Grocers Alliance, Chicago.
"As far as security and the fear that somebody can intercept your E-mail? I think it's overrated," he added. "I would feel just as safe sending somebody E-mail as I would sending somebody the same message via the U.S. Postal Service."
Stores operated by Harry's Farmers Market, Roswell, Ga., access the Internet indirectly, through corporate headquarters. "We have a server [in the corporate office] that is our connection point to the Internet. All users have to come through the server and we have our own security on that," said Terry Ransom, executive vice president and chief administrative officer.
Ransom said Harry's has ordered computer software and equipment from vendors over the Internet and will transmit purchase orders, but not credit card numbers, because of questions about access and security.
David McIntyre, director of retail technology at Wade's Supermarkets, Christiansburg, Va., said conducting business, including paying for purchases, over the Internet will soon become more widespread.
"The Internet security issue will resolve itself. In time, people won't be afraid to place orders on the Net," he said. "Once they get used to the idea of placing an order on their computer, more and more people will do it and soon it'll become commonplace."