House of Fraser has announced it will offer a click-and-collect service in Caffé Nero… is this a bridge too far and is the timing right? 

So just what are the limits to clicking and collecting? House of Fraser has announced that it is going to be launching its click and collect service in a Caffè Nero in Cambridge from the middle of October. And in a way, this is things coming full circle. Remember how thrilled we were when the first places to offer a hot beverage and the internet in a store made their debut? Soon store design consultancies were incorporating cafés in shops as a way of increasing ‘dwelltime’ and any new store of size had something of the kind as part of its blueprint.

All well and good, but how much coffee can we drink and do we want to do this in a store, rather than a dedicated café? To judge from the number of in-store cafés, we do.

Yet now retail is heading in the other direction as it takes its offer to cafés. And as it does so, it’s hard not to wonder whether the respite offered by a café from the high street hurly-burley is about to become a memory. In fairness, the justification for House of Fraser’s move is that it doesn’t have a store in Cambridge and there are a lot of HoF online shoppers with a Cambridge postcode. The theory goes that frustrated potential House of Fraser shoppers can now give free rein to their department store impulse and head down to Caffè Nero to satisfy their craving.

This may be something that is needed, but is this the moment when the floodgates are about to open and will cafes morph into shops in the near future? Maybe, but it seems probable that we are close to ‘peak café’, as the current parlance has it. There are now parts of London and almost everywhere else where cafés have become to high streets what mobile phones shops were a few years ago (and the shakeout of this part of the high street is happening – think Phones 4u).

There may come a point when coffee drinkers will say enough and the long wait as bits of metal are clanged together in search of the perfect soy flat white will all be too much. This is the moment when we will see click and collect points returning to stores. Café-based click and collect is a good idea, but don’t expect to see it everywhere, it’s not to be.