Finally I get Ferrit

February 8, 2009

I wrote about Ferrit for many years and had predicted its demise for quite some time. It made no sense to me – a website that didn’t allow you to buy (only later did they add that capability) and which was designed purely and simply to steal traffic from Trade Me. Kate McLoughlan broke the story in NBR but of course NBR’s archives aren’t complete online any more (someone deleted a server’s worth of history, apparently. Whoops!) and nobody in the mainstream press can remember back that far.

Basically Ferrit was created, according to the story, when Trade Me’s growth meant it finally overtook Xtra’s homepage as the country’s busiest website. That won’t do, cried the powers that be (and there were dark mutterings about “can’t we just switch it off? throttle them back?” etc, although I’ve never seen proof of that) and lo! the decision to build “a competitor to Trade Me” was born.

Ferrit would begin life as a new products only online shopping mall and would expand to include second hand goods and then finally (in a crushing blow) sweep all before it by moving into the auction business.

Of course, that never happened. Trade Me instead has swept all before it, gobbling up auctions, classifieds, job ads, real estate and second hand cars. Sam Morgan has a licence to print the kind of money only Lotto winners usually see and buying Trade Me was the smartest thing Fairfax has done in New Zealand in about a decade or more.

But I digress. Ferrit has always been useless to me as it never sold a single product cheaper than you could buy simply by walking down to the city and wandering into a shop. That’s right, Ferrit missed the entire point of shopping online: it has to be a bargain or nobody will bother. Oh, and it’s catalogue process meant that The Listener and a couple of gardening magazines were listed under “adult” for quite some time.

Ferrit wasn’t alone in this – lifers will remember Flying Pig, a similarly poorly researched website that promised to sweep all before it blah blah blah. Sadly it was always cheaper to walk to the shop to buy a product or even to ring them up and have it delivered than to buy on FP. I wrote a story pointing this out (for Unlimited if memory serves) and was lambasted by the owner for comparing FP with Amazon (something I didn’t do) but either way the criticism stands: if I can buy the exact same product cheaper elsewhere, why would I buy it off you?

But enough digression. Ferrit has become nothing more than a link farm to its previous tennants and in doing so has finally carved out a niche for itself. I finally found Ferrit to be useful because all I wanted was a place where I could find the names of several NZ-based retailers so I could browse through their sites (looking for a birthday present for a four year old to be).

A quick visit to the new look “we’re closing down” Ferrit reveals: I Want That; It’s a Boy Thing; Maxamec and a couple of other sites I didn’t know existed.

Now this is useful: nowhere else can I find a similar service. My hat’s off to you Telecom: finally Ferrit has a purpose.

Disclaimer: I don’t work for Telecom.

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