Today, Nic Pentelow, Director of Retail at CitySprint, considers how high street retailers can adapt to stay ahead of their competitors. This will be even more important as Amazon Local Selling rolls out and the marketplace enable retailers to act as delivery hubs offering speedy local delivery to their customers, but it’s not just Amazon. I already love Wickes for DIY deliveries as they use CitySprint and offer nominated day (next day if you wish) delivery at reasonable costs or even free for larger orders. If high street retailers wish to stay ahead of the game the same model will become ever more a pre-requisite.
How high street retailers can adapt to stay ahead of their competitors
As we move towards recovery, Coronavirus continues to have an influence on retail.
Throughout the sector, brands have seen consumers shift even more of their purchasing online, with ecommerce spend skyrocketing. ONS retail data from October 2021 revealed that online sales were 36% higher than they were in February 2020, before the pandemic hit the UK.
But, even before the pandemic, falling high street sales and increased online competition meant that many retailers were already struggling. Not only has COVID amplified this situation tenfold, but with the recent announcement of the launch of Amazon Local Selling in the UK, a new threat emerges.
Amazon Local Selling
Just when you thought there might be nothing left for the retail behemoth to disrupt, Amazon Local Selling provides a new set of services that enables local, regional, and national retailers to start or expand their Amazon businesses by offering in-store pickup as a new form of fast delivery for customers in specific areas and locations.
Now, click-and-collect offers like this are nothing new. But for high street retailers struggling with the burden of large rents and decreased footfall in stores, the impact of their marketplace competitors harnessing Amazon’s Local Selling could be damaging.
Value in the High Street
There’s long been concerns about the death of the high street. But this news is another reminder of what we at CitySprint have been saying for years – that the high street still has a key role to play. Amazon Local Selling highlights that Amazon, one of the biggest players in the ecommerce world, still sees value in the high street.
And for retailers with local stores, it’s another prompt to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by their retail sites that are already in front of them.
But to ensure they stay ahead of the curve they must act quickly. With the retail industry’s future set to be defined by a fusion of in-store and online shopping – not least with the rise of hybrid working and a new demand for convenience – it’s vital that high street retailers unlock the full potential of their local stores, leveraging these as local or micro-distribution centres and click and collect centres.
Not only will this help alleviate the increased pressure on retail operations and mounting rent costs, but it will also help them meet customers’ ever-increasing expectations for quick, friction-free fulfilment, helping to achieve business continuity.
Agility to meet demand
There are a number of clear-cut benefits of switching up physical stores that will allow retailers to boost their bottom line while powering quality customer experiences – ultimately enabling them to gain the competitive edge.
Firstly, it’s a simple fact that at a time when demand for online shopping is so high, the old model of shipping from a handful of strategically placed distribution centres isn’t agile enough to meet current customer demands.
While a larger high street retailer may have several distribution centres spread across the country, it’s likely that these will not be as widely dispersed as their brick-and-mortar stores. By enhancing local high street stores as micro fulfilment centres, retailers of all sizes can bring distribution closer to the consumer – enabling a more responsive fulfilment.
And, as retailers up and down the country continue to grapple with ongoing supply chain issues as the industry gears up for peak period, in-store fulfilment can help retailers build some much-needed capacity into their distribution networks. Not only is this a cost-effective way to substantially increase operational efficiency, but it also provides faster delivery turnarounds as orders are dispatched locally from nearby stores – leading to increased satisfaction and loyalty from shoppers.
But, with the rise of hybrid working, not every customer has the time or ability to receive their deliveries at home. Here, a click and collect service really is the king of convenience. By using local high street stores to provide this service, retailers can give these customers the ability to pick-up their purchase the same day they make their orders, giving them instant gratification. For retailers, click and collect is a valuable chance to build goodwill, connections with their customers and add-on sales.
As we approach the end of the year, it’s still unclear what new challenges next year will bring for retailers on the high street, but there’s one thing we can say for certain. The retailers that harness click and collect and store fulfilment as part of their long-term strategy will be better placed to capitalise on opportunities and stay ahead of their competitors as we move towards recovery.
It’s up to retailers to respond and seize the opportunities available. If they don’t, new services like those from Amazon will put them even further behind.