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22 July 2013

Sleepwalking to extinction?

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From Opinion column issue 66 – Summer 2013

Everyone in the home shopping business knows that click and collect is one of its fastest-growing sectors, but even so, it might come as a surprise to know that according to some pundits, within a few years it will account for more than half of all home shopping.

Really? If so, why? Interestingly, the sometimes complex rationalisations currently being put forward really boil down to just two possible scenarios.

One: Nobody really wanted home delivery in the first place. The past ten years of home shopping growth have been a mirage, a deception. Actually we all love going to the shops, and now we’re voting with our feet. Home delivery – who needs it?

Two: Home delivery has failed too often. That’s what we really want, but we’re fed up with receiving yellow cards. We want to be in control, even if that means a trip to the shop to collect what should have been delivered to us, at a time and place to suit us.

Which of these scenarios is right? Well, number one certainly isn’t, though a lot of retailers would like us to think it is. Of course people like visiting real shops, and will continue to do so. Click and collect and omni-channel retail (feel the quality in store, buy it on the web) have their place, and won’t go away. Such developments are helping bricks-and-mortar stores to reinvent themselves, and we celebrate that.

But survey after survey has shown that home shoppers’ number one choice for fulfilment is home delivery. Let’s not forget that. That’s why delivery solutions such as convenience store drop-off and locker banks, sidelined for so long, are suddenly big business. Carriers are realising that if they don’t make home delivery work (or provide a good alternative), a fast-growing chunk of their business will shrink again.

If click and collect does eventually account for half of all home shopping, it will be through failure of carriers and solutions providers to make enough impact on the market, and of consumers to insist on having the services they really want.

True home shopping could be on the verge of its biggest setback in a decade. Supporters need to beware of sleepwalking into it.

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