Welcome to the latest column within our broader sustainability section, which focuses on what fashion retailing is doing to address the issues in its industry.
This month’s column is about click & collect – it’s not rocket science but done correctly it might just be the better environmental and economic solution that some big players need. Brought to you by Retail Insider with Clipper and Give Back Box.
Click & Collect sometimes seems to be the Ugly Sister of the e-commerce world. It’s not really at the cutting edge of technology, as one of the first online services offered it seems to have been around forever and it’s neither one thing nor the other if a retailer is focusing on specifically an online or in-store strategy. But it would be a mistake to write Click & Collect off because according to a Barclays Corporate Banking report published in the autumn last year Click & Collect transactions made up almost 10% of all transactions in 2022 worth £42.4 billion.
Add to that the other finding from Barclays that, although straightforward online shopping peaked during the pandemic, demand for Click & Collect continues to grow with 41% of all physical UK stores used as pick-up and return processing locations.
Major retailers such as Aldi (planning to ramp up its service significantly throughout the UK after it ended its Deliveroo tie-up) and John Lewis (a partnership with Dobbies allows customers to pick up their parcels at certain garden centres) are looking to expand multiple variations of the Click & Collect model, and during the back end of last year we had one of the big beasts of British fashion – the notoriously e-commerce-sceptical Primark – finally announcing a Click & Collect trial in the North of England across its children’s clothing ranges within 25 stores.
The trial – delivered in conjunction with the sponsors of this column Clipper Logistics via its ClickLink system – has been so popular that the Primark website immediately crashed. The company, which is still very firmly resistant to home delivery, has said that it hopes a visit in-store for Click & Collect orders will result in additional top-up purchases that will make the whole thing more economically viable. So that’s the economic case but what of the environmental benefits of Click & Collect?
Well, there are certainly environmental advantages to getting customers to pick-up and return their own purchases so that an environmentally responsible organisation such as Clipper can process the returns from store. Certainly people are far less likely to buy five different iterations of the same garment just to see which they might prefer if the delivery and returns process involves just a smidgeon of effort on their part. That’s just human psychology as people value their own time more than other people’s. More targeted and thought-about buying is always good for the environment.
With its economic and environmental advantages there is a debate over whether Click & Collect should be free or not. Most retailers charge a fee or have a minimum spend and these tools can be used to control take-up. John Lewis scrapped its minimum spend before Christmas to encourage customers to be able to place smaller orders more often. For clothing retailers to make the service complimentary would definitely contrast favourably with the growing number of online operators who are beginning to charge to discourage serial returners such as H&M and Zara.
Interestingly, both these retail giants have decided to keep returns to store completely free for customers. There are not many who would disagree that the demise of endless cost-free online returns is a plus for the environment but it might also be the turn of the humble hybrid Click & Collect model to step into the breach.