Hell, there are no rules here — we're trying to accomplish something.

Thomas A. Edison

The state of play

It's Friday night. It's hot. The kids are swimming in the pool.

The mums, sipping wine, are gathered around the white stone-top bench, a feature in almost every middle-class, suburban Australian household. They're nibbling on crackers, dip and cheese, musing over the week that was.

Michelle, the owner of the house, is scrolling on her iPad, distracted.

‘What are you looking for?' I ask.

‘A dress. I've just been invited to the races tomorrow and I want something new to wear.'

‘The shops will be shut in one hour's time,' I say helpfully.

‘I know. I'll buy it from this online store in South Melbourne,' she responds, sliding the iPad over to me.

‘They deliver within the hour and I can return it if it doesn't fit and get another one sent over, free of charge. Not bad, huh?'

‘Really?' I murmur.

‘Yeah, I use them all the time. You should check them out. I'll email you the link.'

That conversation, and millions like it, is being held all over the world in kitchens, coffee shops, bars, pools and pubs, and they're not just talking about a dress, but everything that we use and consume in our daily lives.

And it's conversations like this that make traditional retailers nervous. Very nervous.

Who's not shopping online?

When people like Michelle — a conservative, middle-aged woman with a passing familiarity with computers — migrates to shopping online, bypassing the ...

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