A number of reasons have been given for off-price retailers to stay away from e-commerce.
Some say one of the main attractions of the concept, the treasure hunt in stores, gets lost when moved online. Others point to supply issues. Off-price retailers have a limited supply of goods to work with (that's why they're off-price to begin with) and splitting inventory between stores and e-commerce sites could backfire.
And, then there are shipping costs to deal with. Off-price shoppers are, by their nature, always looking to save money. How will off-price sites maintain their price mystique if their frugal customer base has to, directly or indirectly, pick up the cost of shipping?
Despite the various reasons for off-price retailers to avoid launching e-commerce sites, it's clear that's where they are moving anyway. Nordstrom Rack, according to reports, has had success online as well as in stores when it comes to moving merchandise.
Recently, T.J. Maxx relaunched its website, which closed in 2005 after one ho-hum year of operation.
"Their business has been so strong without it," Michael Baker, an analyst for Deutsche Bank Securities, told The Boston Globe. "There hasn't been a great urgency to launch."
The most recent off-price chain to launch an e-commerce site is Saks Off 5TH.
"This is a significant milestone for Saks Off 5th as the company rounds out our omni-channel offerings," said Robert Wallstrom, president of Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH. "In addition to our 70 nationwide stores, the e-commerce site is yet another platform through which we can provide our curated off-price shopping experience."
"We designed the site to be a sleek, modern online reflection of the elevated design of the OFF 5TH stores with a strong value message. We think it will become a best in class off price fashion destination online," said Michael Burgess, president of Saks Direct.
Will operating e-commerce sites be a net positive or negative for off-price retailers?