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Stanley Gibbons looks to an online future as esales rise by 72%

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Rare stamp, autograph and coin dealer Stanley Gibbons today said it expects the internet to be its main sales channel of the future as it unveiled 72% growth in online sales.

Announcing its full-year results today, the AIM-listed company said: “We see the internet and other forms of electronic communication to clients as progressively becoming our primary sales channel over time, and believe the reputation of our brand combined with our offering in this respect will consolidate our position as leader in our core markets.”

In the full year to December 31 2011, the company said its total sales rose by 35% to £35.7, from £26.4m in 2010. Online sales rose by 72% to £4.3m, from £2.5m the previous year. Pre-tax profits rose 19% to £5.1m, from £4.3m.

Online revenues rose, said the company, after the redesign of its Stanley Gibbons website in May. Since then, it said, conversion rates had doubled in the final six months of the year.

It said improved search engine optimisation and better management of online promotions had helped to boost both site visitors and conversion rates. Functionality, from stamp album management to online prices, improved in tandem with stock, with lower value stamps available for the first time. At the other end of the scale, high net worth client leads that came through the website led to sales of £3.4m, up by 89% on the £1.8m taken at the same time last year.

Stanley Gibbons said it was now reviewing its strategic options before moving onto the next phase of its ecommerce development, the launch of an online trading platform and auctions. Improvements scheduled for for 2012 also include foreign language versions of its website to strengthen its international sales, mobile applications to showcase its content over smartphones, and adding specialised philatelic information to its online stamp catalogue.

While 2010 saw the company strengthen its sales into China, highlights for the current financial year will include overseas expansion, moving into new markets by opening offices in countries including Switzerland, Singapore, Monaco, Gibraltar and Brazil.

The redesign of the website was carried out by web consultancy Sceneric , using a hybris multichannel platform.

Keith Heddle, sales and marketing director of Stanley Gibbons, said: “Increasing interest in alternative investments means our business continues to grow and do well, as customers realise the wisdom of having tangible assets in their portfolios. Since its launch in 2011, www.stanleygibbons.com has helped us expand our sales overseas into key markets such as the U.S. and Far East. Further development of the site is central to our ongoing evolution from a trader to a trading provider to gain a greater percentage of the global sales and activities of collectors, dealers, auction houses and others related to the stamp market.”

Jim Herbert, chief operating officer of Sceneric, the UK-based ecommerce consultancy, said: “I think the sharp increase in online sales for www.stanleygibbons.com points to strong demand for an easy to use and reliable portal for stamp purchases and investments. Adding further functionality so that the portal becomes a more immersive and community-rich customer experience is a challenge we look forward to meeting with hybris this year.”

Ariel Luedi, chief executive of hybris, said: “Online presence has long been a part of an integrated multichannel strategy, but many companies, especially those dealing in areas of high market worth such as investments and prestige collectibles, see online just as a window to advertise their business, not a means of providing a more rounded customer experience. Stanley Gibbons had the vision to see that the site was an extension, and not a replacement of, the customer relationships it is rightly renowned for.”
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