Digital Content

Business-to-consumer e-commerce is still growing and has room to grow in SA despite news of the country’s falling position due to its highly regulated telecommunications environment, says e-tailer Hein Pretorius, CEO of, puts the blame for the slower take-off of e-tailing in SA squarely at the door of the telecommunications sector.

"Telecommunications, and the fact that it was not deregulated as soon as we thought, has a big cost implication on the time that people spend on the Internet. They are simply not prepared to spend hours on the Internet browsing Web sites."

Pretorius says has been forced to streamline its processes to include an easy search function as well as a hassle-free registration and checkout process. "Our customers don’t have to spend hours online looking for products and filling in endless forms to register as a customer." South African supply chains need to be streamlined too, Pretorius says.

He says’s business model is not to keep stock in its warehouse, so that each time a customer orders a product, it is ordered from the supplier directly. Once the products arrive at the warehouse, they are packaged immediately, unless they are still awaiting another product that is part of the same order.

"So the hold-up comes with getting the products from suppliers timeously and this is what dictates the delivery times that online retailers in SA can offer their customers," Pretorius says. says around 3.28 million South Africans have Internet access, but only between 500 000 to 600 000 are transacting online.

US online retail sales are expected to reach $65 billion in 2004, according to market research firm Jupiter Research.

Pretorius says that while SA has a smaller base, proportionally South Africans still don’t spend nearly as much on online transactions.

He says e-mail is usually the first point of entrance for people starting to use the Internet, and then they progress to using online banking and then eventually become Internet shoppers, and this should happen once the telecommunications industry sorts itself out.

"But I have no doubt that the convenience of online shopping and the range available online will stand e-commerce in good stead in years to come," Pretorius says.