Small Business Research Board Distribution, Wholesale eCommerce Study: Most Small Distribution / Wholesale Businesses Slow To Embrace Internet; Industry Trails National Averages In Most Categories Studied In Recent SBRB Poll

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Small distribution and wholesaling companies responding to a nationwide Small Business Research Board (SBRB) study are lagging the national averages in most categories when compared to how other small businesses are approaching the use of the Internet and their projections for future sales, according to the results of the latest poll released here today.

    The study co-sponsored by Business Today Magazine disclosed that more than 47% of all small wholesale and distribution companies participating in the study do not have websites. Furthermore, 72% of the small distribution and wholesaling companies, including those with websites, do not sell any products or services on line.

Of the 52.7% of distributors and wholesalers with websites, nearly 47% have the ability to sell product and services from those sites. Of those with Internet sites, 46.9% said they sell products from a single site they own while 6.1% sell on from two to five sites they control.

Nearly 96.8% said they expect their Internet revenues to stay the same or increase during the next 12 to 24 months with 26.9% of those projecting increases.

Nationally, of all businesses participating in the SBRB survey, 96.7% said they expect Internet revenues to increase or stay the same during the next 12 to 24 months, with 29.2% predicting increases.

Of the industries studied, manufacturers led all business categories in their commitment to the Internet with 67.2% indicating they have at least one website. Transportation companies as a segment followed, with 63% indicating they have websites. Small retailers were next with 62.5% saying they have websites.

Nationally, 42.7% of the respondents said they did not have a website while 47.3% said they had one website. Another 9.1% said they had between two and ten websites and .9% said they had more than ten websites.

Additionally, 56.1% of the small businesses with websites said they sell products and services on a company-owned site.

Owners and managers of more than 550 small businesses representing numerous industries responded to the nationwide SBRB / Business Today study.

The SBRB / Business Today report provides specific detail by size of business, by industry, by region (and in some instances by state) the various experiences each segment has had with the Internet and their commitment to offer products and services through eCommerce transactions.

The study, for instance, breaks out information by size of business and industry on the number of firms with websites, the number of websites they have, the percentage of their product line available on their sites and percentage of business revenue derived from eCommerce.

Overall, the study also found that:

-- Of those small distributors and wholesalers with Internet sites, 22.4% said that up to 25% of its products are available for sale on line and another 16.3% said 26% to 99% of their products could be purchased on line. An additional 12.2% said a full 100% of their products can be found "on line."

-- Again, relating to distribution and wholesale companies with web presences, 26.5% said up to 25% of its overall revenue was developed through on line transactions. Another 22.4% of the participants said that 26% to 100% of its revenue was the result of eCommerce.

The SBRB / Business Today Small Business eCommerce Study is believed to be among the most comprehensive efforts recently undertaken to understand eCommerce and the reality of its impact on small businesses. The resulting information thus provides both a snapshot on current attitudes and realizations among small business owners as well as establishes benchmarks.

Among the questions asked were:

-- How many websites does your company own?

-- On how many of these websites do you sell products / conduct transactions?

-- What percentage of your product line can be purchased on your Internet site?

-- How much of your sales were transacted on your Internet site(s) last year?

-- Over the next 12 to 24 months do you expect your Internet sales to increase, decrease or remain the same?

Poll participants also were asked to provide information on the percentage of products and services that could be purchased on their websites five years ago as well as the correlating percentage of sales that were derived. This data contributed to helping establish trends and historical benchmarks.

The study provides data for the all participants and also delineates data pertaining to only those businesses which have Internet sites.

Data is included for such industries as manufacturing, construction and contracting, retail, food and beverage, distribution and wholesaling, transportation and automotive.

Business Today Magazine is dedicated to serving the information needs of owners and managers of small businesses. The primary goals of the quarterly publication based in Buffalo Grove, Il. are to inform and educate its readers by providing timely, useful information that will help readers both contend with the daily demands of running their businesses as well as provide insight on achieving long term growth.

The Small Business Research Board ascertains and reports the opinions of small business owners and managers on a wide variety of topics related to their own businesses as well as national and international issues that may impact their operations. The SBRB conducts these studies for the benefit of small business owners and managers. The SBRB also provides opportunities for third parties to gain real time insight into the attitudes of small businesses nationwide through the independently conducted research.

The latest information about the Small Business Research Board can be found at

NOTE TO EDITORS: This article is the ninth in a series on the study of small business, the Internet and eCommerce by the Small Business Research Board. Previous releases detailed overall findings of a nationwide poll of small businesses in which nearly 97% of the respondents expect revenue generated from web-based sales to stay the same or increase during the next one to two years -- with 29.2% of those expecting revenue to increase. Additional releases break out the results by size of business, geographic region, several states (New York and California) and by industry.

In addition to this release on distribution and wholesale businesses, there will be additional releases for such industries as food and beverage, automotive and transportation.

(1) some totals may not equal 100% as a result of rounding.

For more information about this poll, copies of the complete study and the results of previous studies or other matters related to the Small Business Research Board, please contact Raymond D. Minkus, (847) 441-4192.

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Raymond D. Minkus
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