High street footfall fell 3.3 per cent in April, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium, highlighting the challenge facing retailers as consumers move more of their business online.
That drop in April followed a weak March. Not surprising then that the past few months have seen a growing band of retailers opting for company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) to renegotiate leases or even close stores altogether.
The other side of the coin, of course, is to get the online offer right – and logistics is key to that.
But there is still a big gap between what retailers are offering and what consumer want, according to a report by delivery experience company Sorted.
This “Delivery Battleground Report”, covering 2,000 UK shoppers and 50 retailers, found that 70 per cent of consumers want retailers to provide more flexible fulfilment options, but only 18 per cent of retailers have the capabilities to allow shoppers to alter an order right up until the moment of dispatch.
“This inflexibility in the customer supply chain, the report suggests, is not only costing retailers conversions and lost sales opportunities – in a highly competitive retail landscape, the danger of not giving shoppers exactly what they want is that they can quickly find an alternative option – but also negatively impacting on customer experience,” it said.
One initiative that does seem to be paying dividends is delivery subscription services. A study by Whistl found that consumers are now spending £2 billion a year on such services.
Amazon Prime is the most popular service, with 61.4 per cent of those surveyed signed up. Other popular services include: Graze (12.3 per cent), nextunlimited (9.7 per cent), and ASOS Premier (8.8 per cent).
Almost half of consumers in the survey said they had bought goods that they wouldn’t have bought if they hadn’t had the subscription.
BRC chief Helen Dickinson points out: “Retailers are embracing changing customer behaviour and adapting to a challenging environment by rebalancing investment in physical and digital infrastructure. Policy-makers can help support our industry and the re-making of our high streets by creating a progressive policy environment that allows retailers to adapt successfully.”
The BRC is looking to policy-makers to support the retail sector in adapting to the changes in the market.
But this latest research hammers home the point that in the new retail world a product is not sold until it is in the hands of the customer. Fulfilment is not an add-on: it must be at the heart of the offer.