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Selfridges to wait for 2010 for ecommerce launch

Selfridges chief executive Paul Kelly said the department store business would not be rushed into online retail, but will wait until 2010 to launch its ecommerce site.

Speaking at the Retail Week conference, Kelly said: “We don’t have to follow the crowd, we have to do things when it’s right for the business. It’s great to have four shops and now we’ll have four shops and an ecommerce site, but we want to go online when we’re ready and not launch something in six months and end up with a dog’s dinner. We want to replicate Selfridges and all that it is online and we will not do something quickly and damage our brand by rushing it.”

Kelly added that it was true even for his business that times were getting tougher, but he relished the prospect of retailing in a less benign climate. He said: “Retailing is fantastic in tough times. In good times it’s boring but in tough times so many new initiatives, ideas and opportunities come out of retailing against the odds.”

Kelly said that he was not expecting his customer base to trade down, and that his experience was that his customers were buying ever higher priced goods. He warned retailers in other markets that messing about trying to compete on price was the road to trouble.

He said: “You would have to be up to your neck in trouble to start mucking around with pricing. If you look at retailers over here who have done that they have just got themselves into greater difficulties.”

Kelly told the conference that although Wittington Investments, the family business that owns Brown Thomas in Dublin, Selfridges and Holt Renfrew in Canada, was an international business, he categorically stated that Selfridges would not be opening branches overseas.

“That’s not our business,” said Kelly. “We’re about serving local markets that we understand and that understand our brand.”

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