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Locals Spend Millions Online, But Mostly With Offisland Stores
Few locally owned e-tail sites exist, though owners say business is fine
By TAINA ROSA
January 29, 2004
There are 600,000 to 900,000 Internet users in Puerto Rico who spend an average of $364 million online each year, but most of that money isnt going to local e-tailers (Internet retailers), according to Transnational Tradeways Inc. Nevertheless, the owners of some of the few locally owned e-tail sites that do exist say business is steady.
By 1999, local consumers had joined the ranks of the biggest spenders online. According to a November 1999 report by E-commerce Times, "The amount spent during an online shopping visit ranged from under $35 in Denmark, Spain, and China to more than $70 in the U.S., Argentina, and Puerto Rico."
However, the vast majority of purchases by locals were made at e-tail sites based outside of Puerto Rico. Informal research by CARIBBEAN BUSINESS found few locally based e-tail sites, among them www.islaonline.com, www.entrepetalos.com, www.antojitos.com, www.floresyservicios.com, and www.navidadboricua. com.
Sources at some of these stores told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS that sales have been okay. "Weve had our ups and downs, but this is because our sales are more seasonal. Generally speaking, were doing fine. People tend to order flower arrangements for occasions such as Valentines Day and Mothers Day," said Jossie Rosado, president of Cayey-based EntrePetalos.com.
Rosado and Elaine Montgomery, president of Rio Grande-based Antojitos.com, noted that most of their clients are from outside Puerto Rico. "I would say about 80% of our clients arent in Puerto Rico. Weve received orders from people in countries as far away as Iraq, Mexico, and Spain who are either Puerto Ricans living abroad or people who are somehow connected to the island," said Rosado.
The clients of seven-year-old IslaOnline.com, based in Santurce, are mostly from the U.S. mainland. "We sell primarily to the U.S. Hispanic population," said Teruca Subira, director of online marketing.
Begun as a catalog operation, IslaOnline.com sells Puerto Rican and Caribbean items. EntrePetalos.com delivers flower arrangements all over Puerto Rico. Antojitos.com sends items from Puerto Rico, such as food and music, to the U.S. mainland.
Subira believes e-tailers have many of the responsibilities of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. For instance, they must keep and manage inventory, and many people dont want to get involved in a complex operation.
Rosado thinks e-commerce hasnt taken off in Puerto Rico because many people fear they wont have satisfactory sales, but the experience of locally based virtual stores demonstrates that buyers come from all over. Unlike brick-and-mortar stores, which depend on a fixed market, online stores can have the world as their client.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.