The e-tail versus retail debate will resolve itself this year and a host of online-only offerings will go to the wall by Christmas. Dismissing earlier talk of a supermarket-free countryside as shoppers turn to the web PricewaterhouseCoopers' European retail leader, Bill Gilmour, told the E-retailing 2000 conference that the future lies with multi-channel players. Gilmour said: "Multi-channel retailing will be the rule, not the exception. Those who combine their online and off-line business into an integrated operation will be best equipped to build long-term relationships with their customers." Only a full basket of products and services will satisfy increasingly demanding and more informed customers, he added. According to Gilmour, a separate online arm under the same umbrella allows companies to leverage knowledge and brand loyalty but leaves the dot com business "sufficiently flexibility to break through barriers". He added that the proliferation of technology means shoppers will expect similar expansion in purchasing mechanisms. E-business will act as a facilator for new relationships with consumers that extend beyond traditional products and services. Gilmour said retailers had to be clear about what they offer and must "add value if they want to make a profit". Netgrocer president Fred Horowitz said: "Multi-channel is the most significant trend in the last year in terms of the way people are really thinking about using the web." BT Synchordia boss David Catchpole said food is at a low stage of development in terms of e-commerce. "The market has been established but there are no real leaders in place." he said. "If you enter the market now there is a lot of freedom and a lot of space for market leadership. It's about being fast, not necessarily big." l Shopping on the Go, p30. {{NEWS }}