BOBS your uncle with new trading exchange

Small retailers can now sell online without huge infrastructure costs, after the launch of an exchange yesterday that links consumers to retailers via the Internet.

BOBS.com.au aims to match consumers with retailers across the country to bargain for products, hence BOBS -- bid, offer, buy, sell. The company provides the platform for purchase as well as payment and delivery services for customers.

"BOBS is a trading exchange for complex purchases -- by that I mean branded merchandise $500 and up," explained CEO Peter Rayner.

More than $3.2 billion will be spent on computer hardware alone in the Australian retail market during 2001 and 2002, according to the company. Around $633 million will be spent on software. The company is aiming for around 6 per cent of the computer market and aims to sign 1000 retailers by the end of next year across a dozen product categories including computer goods, home entertainment and electrical appliances.

Under the scheme, customers enter a product and BOBS will match their query with relevant dealers. Retailers have 24 hours to respond with a suitable product and price.

The key, according to Rayner, is the site's ability to offer small and medium retailers online sales access without the need to invest large sums of money.

"The most important retailing issues are position, purchasing and stock management," he said. "If you are retailer in Brisbane, you can now sell to customers in Melbourne, as long as you have e-mail. Or, if you find yourself with excess stock, you can choose to pick your margin and move that stock."

BOBS takes a commission from each sale made -- 3 per cent for computer products. Rayner claims the figure is very competitive when compared to customer acquisition costs, which frequently run to 7 per cent. Retailers will also pay a startup fee to access ANZ's eGate secure payment gateway.

"There is no membership fee, or advertising overheads. The retailer doesn't pay us anything unless a sale is made," he said.

The company has been running a series of training courses in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to demonstrate the exchange to the channel.

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