Reuters reports that Home Depot has begun selling appliances online, with free shipping and a guarantee that prices will be the same as in its stores, with no regional variation. Home Depot has been slow to offer online sales of appliances. According to the Reuters story, Sears began offering appliances online in 1999 and Lowe's in 2000. Home Depot is now playing catch-up aggressively: its home page now features appliances, with the tag line "1,000s of Appliances - Now Available Online".
Of note to Internet investors:
- The purchase of high-priced appliances online will boost online retail numbers, but will likely come at the expense of purchases from physical stores.
- This is incrementally positive for search companies Google and Yahoo!, as demand for appliance-related key words (and probably their price) will rise as more companies enter the online market.
- The time and effort of comparison shopping makes greatest sense for large purchases. The expansion of the online appliance market is therefore incrementally positive for the comparison shopping businesses run by Google, Yahoo! and Shopping.com, as well as private companies Nextag, PriceGrabber and Shopzilla.
Full disclosure: at the time of writing I'm long SHOP.