Retail has been hit by a perfect storm, says the home delivery expert ParcelHero. New figures from PwC reveal 5,853 shops closed last year, and embattled Debenhams has placed itself in receivership as it fights against the onslaught of e-commerce. But with ASOS’ profits tumbling nearly 90%, online retailers are also struggling.
ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, says: ‘Wherever you look retailers are suffering, whether it’s on the High Street or online. That’s because too many big-name retailers are still stuck in a largely ‘pureplay’ mindsets.'
Says David: ’This week’s grim retail news underscores the fact that a multichannel approach is essential. Combining store and online sales is the only way to ensure retailers are covering all their basis. And it facilitates booming BOPUS – Buy Online, Pick Up in Store – sales: which give consumers the ease of online purchasing with the convenience of collecting items when they want.’
David says many stores’ approach to online has been completely unintegrated: a fatal mistake. ‘Try to buy a freezer from Debenhams and you are taken away from its own site to Debenhams Plus.com –a white label site ran by a completely different company: Buy It Direct. It’s so clunky your existing shopping basket is left behind, and Debenhams’ account card and gift cards are not accepted. A far from seamless purchasing experience compared for that given purchasing larger items on John Lewis and M&S’ sites.
But online-only stores are not an entirely safe prospect either, as ASOS’ latest figures reveal. Says David: 'That’s because e-commerce returns are costing £60bn a year. ASOS has been hit by a wave of ‘wardrobing’, shoppers wearing clothes and then returning them, and has had to introduce a tough new policy for ‘unusual’ returns. Additionally, ASOS has undertaken significant changes to its supply chain, and as a result some of the choices it made on short-term pricing, marketing and inventory impacted on its competitiveness and customer engagement.’
Explains David: ‘If ASOS had also some High Street stores to fall back on, it would have been in a stronger position this year. Items returned direct to a store cost less to process because there are no transport costs. And upheavals in its e-commerce supply chain would have less of an impact on physical stores.’
And David underlines web-only stores are not the answer for struggling brands. ‘Remember BHS.com? That’s the problem, you probably don’t. After BHS collapsed in 2016 a new online only store, BHS.com, rose from the ashes to focus on the former department store’s key strengths of lighting, bedding etc. But it collapsed after less than two years. And for anyone who thinks a dedicated and well-funded online store must be a safe bet, I have just three words. Boo dot com.’
Concludes David: ‘As Brexit anxieties mean consumers are being extra cautious, a balance of High Street and web sales will position retailers best to capture the elusive pound. The one encouraging channel is BOPUS sales. Buy Online, Pick Up in Store is booming. Retailers such as Argos have seen click and collect in store sales soar, and recent US research shows 41% of shoppers now consider it to be the option likely to commit them to making a purchase. Only multi-channel retailers can offer this combined web-site and store pick-up option.’