As we are all too aware, retailing on the high street has been hard hit. Leading retail brands are falling by the wayside – notable examples being Woolworths and MFI – with other high profile companies expected to be victims of the credit crunch after Christmas. But while the high street suffers, online retailing is still expected to grow, with IMRG and Capgemini predicting that internet sales this Christmas will be 15 per cent up on last year.
Apparently, UK shoppers will be spending £13.16 billion online over the Christmas period, although the rate of growth is slowing compared with the 54 per cent year on year increase experienced in 2007. Internet sales may still represent only a fraction of the retail market, but the online channel is becoming increasingly important to many top retailers. For John Lewis, its online business is now its largest store, having recently overtaken the company’s flagship Oxford Street store. But are retailers doing enough in their high street branches to meet customer needs?
Recently, I was in a leading clothing retail outlet with my wife. She had spotted a pair of trousers she wanted but the size she needed was out of stock. The shop assistant informed us that it would take two weeks for the shop to take delivery of the item. However, they could be purchased on the web and sent within 48hrs for an £8 delivery charge. In the end, my wife decided against buying them, not being sure whether they would fit.
High street retailers need to be far more responsive regarding replenishing their stores if they are to win sales in lean times. It may be that logistics costs determine a two week delivery cycle, but sales may be easily lost. Perhaps a collaborative approach to the problem might enable more frequent deliveries to high street stores, bringing more sales, better service and happier customers.