As Zara opened its first ever click-and-collect store in Westfield Stratford, our stores editor John Ryan compares collection points across the sector.
Every time that a shopper orders something from the web and decides to ‘click and collect’, they are entering no man’s land from a retailer or shopping centre’s perspective.
Is the purchase, which is concluded in-store, the work of the web or the store? Should the revenue be attributed to the online side of the business or the bricks-and-mortar operation?
The answer to these questions will vary from retailer to retailer, but one thing is certain: the shopper will head for the collection point in a store, or its equivalent, which may just be a checkout.
There are a variety of options for the retailer, some of which will work very well for the collecting shopper, while others will be likely to prove an albatross around the neck in terms of the time involved and the queues that may be encountered.
The real point is that there is little conformity on the approach taken to this relatively straightforward operation. Clicking and collecting may be simple, but it will go a considerable way towards colouring a shopper’s view of a specific retailer or location.
Zara, Westfield Stratford
This is a standalone click-and-collect store and as such represents a departure compared with what the vast majority of retailers are doing about acting as collection points for online shoppers.
It is a pop-up store, but given that it is an Inditex production, the shop actually looks slick, contemporary and well-thought-through.
The premise is simple. The store is located directly across the mall walkway from the centre’s main Zara store, and rather than clog up what is a busy site with online shoppers, why not give them a dedicated space where they will not be encumbered with terrestrial customers?
Like Debenhams, the fact that an online shopper is crossing the threshold of a physical store is not lost upon Zara management, and those entering this one are presented with rails of stock representing the current range.
Zara is also at pains to make the point that this ‘concept store’ is also the destination for Returns and Exchanges. In reality, this space in the middle of a shopping centre might more accurately be described as a ‘store services shop’.
Given the increasingly blurred lines between online and offline, this pop-up could well serve as a pointer towards the shape of things to come.
The recently opened Debenhams in Stevenage has just two floors, and therefore the notion of a secondary area is very much less pressing than in the House of Fraser store in the City.
The Click & Collect desk is on the first floor and has rather more of the feeling of a lounge than a counter over which previously purchased goods are passed.
To this end, a pair of well-upholstered armchairs and a table with an orchid on it front the area, providing a sense of calm to the space.
For those arriving at the desk, Debenhams has taken a lesson from Amazon. If clothing has been purchased, there will be a rail with a few garments on it chosen on the basis of ‘if you like this, you’ll love this’.
This is a simple way of possibly accruing incremental sales and turning an online shopper who happens to be in a terrestrial store into a bricks-and-mortar customer. It is also another way in which tech can be used as a means of personalising a trip to a store.
Matters in this store are improved by putting a bank of fitting rooms next to the click-and-collect zone, meaning perhaps that ‘if you like this, you’ll love this’… so why not try it on?
House of Fraser, London City
Having clicked, the business of collecting from this branch of House of Fraser involves entering the store and then heading up several escalators until the third floor at the top of the store is reached. This is where the Buy & Collect desk is located.
The logic behind the location is simple – click-and-collect shoppers have made their purchase and therefore why bother putting the area for collection in a prime part of the store?
The top floor is where Men’s Formal is housed, traditionally a lower-turnover area than womenswear or beauty and therefore relegated to a multi-floor store’s secondary area.
The desk itself is perfectly business-like with up to six collection points for busy periods. The major problem for a C&C shopper is the location.
If a purchase has been made using this method, the inference has to be that an extended period in the store is probably not required.
Putting the desk at the top of the store means that the underlying rationale of C&C, speed and convenience, is defeated – and yes, the shopper might have passed all of the retailer’s offers on the way to this one, but that is not really why the store has been entered.