Despite the hype surrounding selling goods over the Internet, an increasing number of conventional retailers are finding real business advantages in using the Internet to improve communications with suppliers.
News from the Retail Solutions show in Birmingham last week shows the significant impact the Web is having on the retail sector.
Department store Debenhams, which has been running Kewill's Internet-based portal to manage its suppliers for a year, announced plans to extend the system across its entire supply operations. For the first time warehouses, transport contractors, and importers will be able to monitor the progress and contents of deliveries from their desktops.
The announcement by fashion house Tommy Hilfiger that it intends to sign up for Selfridges online system, run by Retek, is also highly significant.
Although Selfridges is only one of a large number of outlets used by Hilfiger, the company believes the concept is so important that it is pressing other retailers to join.
The problem for retail suppliers is that there are so many incompatible Internet and extranet information systems springing up. They are having to sign up with different, incompatible systems, duplicating time and effort.
Until some common standards emerge, suppliers might want to take a leaf out of poultry producer Bernard Matthews' book.
The supplier has signed up to a service that will take data from three incompatible supermarket information exchanges, extract only the relevant details, and alert managers of any important developments.