Tele sales show dramatic growth in Australia

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SYDNEY--Once the exclusive domain of aluminum siding salesmen, telemarketing has boomed into a major retail sector in Australia, selling everything from holidays to home loans.

New figures released by the Commercial Economic Advisory Service of Australia reveal the telemarketing industry rang up sales of $57.6 billion during 1998--up a staggering 75% from 1997.

The largest generator of sales from call centers is the finance sector -- selling banking, insurance and credit cards down the phone. The value of such transactions outstripped traditional call center users such as fast food home delivery services. Australia's Commonwealth Bank alone now handles seven million phone calls a month.

Telemarketing is fast catching up to traditional retailing, which has long enjoyed a firm grip on the nation's purse strings.

According to the Retail Trader's Association, the nation's department stores, boutiques, supermarkets and corner stores sold a total of $92 billion worth of goods during 1998. However, with annual growth of around 4% it's hardly boom times for shop keepers.

"The growth is largely due to the convenience factor--it's much easier to do your banking sitting at home using the telephone," says Peter Abbott, general manager of direct banking at the Commonwealth Bank. "For us it's a lot more cost effective than other forms of marketing. We like to use the call center in conjunction with other marketing tools, such as mobile bankers who go out and visit our customers after they've made a call to the bank."

"A lot of this has to do with the fact people's time is under a lot of pressure and the phone is a way to save time," Mr. Abbott says.

Copyright May 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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