For a while now, and as someone who has spent a long time in retail, I have divided the industry into three very broad categories: The Wastelands (Llanelli town centre), The Retail Parks (Lakeside), The Yummy Mummy High Streets (Winchester High Street). The shops in these areas differ enormously such as Poundland, Next, and the likes of Jack Wills or Jo Jo Mamam Bebe. Recently, I added a fourth category which supersedes the original three, namely click and collect shops.
One of the major issues facing internet shopping has been delivery and returns. Up until a few years ago, the process was a pain and contradicted the shopping ‘experience’ retailers invest in so heavily to gain competitive advantage. You had to wait at home to have your goods delivered or experience the embarrassment of a huge parcel turning up at your office, then try out/try on the goods. If what was delivered didn’t meet your expectations, you had to go through the rigmarole of putting them back in the packaging and join a long queue at your local post office, which happened to be twenty miles away. In my eyes, the experience was a huge turn off.
Thankfully, we are now at the stage in which your local outlet, say Next, offers a service where you can test out your purchase in store, and if you’re dissatisfied with it you can simply walk away.
The question I have had for some time now is ‘how many of those shops actually exist purely to service click and collect?’
I think we’re about to find out…
Two of the latest developments in this area are Collect + and Collection hubs. Collect + is supposedly one of the fastest growing businesses in the country. In effect, it is a network of shops where you pick up and return unsatisfactory goods. You can pick up your dress with the milk on the way home from work at your local convenience store, and if need be, return it when you go back to work the next day as you get the morning newspaper.
The second concept for me is more exciting and this is collection hubs. One of the first is the dedicated hub within Westfield London which will enables shoppers to try on their purchases before taking them. To quote Westfield:
“Westfield London will provide a luxury collection experience with a premium lounge area, complete with fitting rooms which provide the convenience of being able to immediately try on purchases to know if they are suitable, saving an additional trip to return items.
The service will also offer shoppers the same extensive opening hours as the centre as well as one hour free parking to collect their deliveries in a dedicated car park area, providing great flexibility for busy schedules”.
My final thoughts…
Our view at Legacy Retail is that there are far too many shops in the UK. Many retailers continue to ‘stick their heads in the sand’. The issues facing internet shopping are being overcome or at least addressed. Perhaps eventually shopping will be a leisure activity, impulse or necessity.
Sitting in the Westfield hub last week (and it was quite luxurious) I mused that I could order online from any of the stores in Westfield and sit there until they delivered it to the hub. What will be the future of the many shops in the centre as more consumers come alive to this service? Will Westfield eventually be just one big hub? Now there’s food for thought…