DATA BASE

Q+A:
WWD: Can the dot-coms expect their high-paid talent to jump ship just as fast as they joined the virtual voyage, now that their stock options have been sharply devalued in the volatile market?
Stephanie Shern, vice chairman and global director of the retail and consumer goods practice at Ernst & Young: “The Internet is becoming a vital tool for commerce and for providing product and other trend information.
“Consumers continue to adopt this channel in ever-growing numbers, they are spending more and more time and money online, and they are telling us that it meets their need for easily accessible information and shopping convenience.
“What the stock market will do next is anybody’s guess — and better market strategists than I can add some science to this — but I believe that the talent that has been joining the dot-coms will learn to recognize a company with good fundamentals and will be willing to stay for the opportunities and rewards yet to come.
“What has happened to stock valuations is probably a good thing for the long term: It will bring some reality to the values we have seen and will force people to focus on business fundamentals such as sound supply chain management, solid distribution capability, strong financial management and more realistic spending on marketing.
“I have believed in the possibilities of the Internet for a long time, and I believe that as far as we have come, the greatest opportunities are still ahead of us. To realize these opportunities, we only need our imaginations and some basic business practices such as good merchandising and marketing.
“So, while there may be some short-term ship-jumping, we believe it is short-sighted to associate short-term market changes with a decline in long-term opportunities created by the Internet.
“Well-capitalized companies — the big brands — will create them. As I said in January, we are only in the second inning of this game!”