Fashion grasps the online opportunity
Although clothing retailers have been relatively slow to develop their online capabilities there is a big acceleration taking place as they adapt their offers to the increasingly multi-channel demands of European consumers. By Glynn Davis in Berlin
Speaking at the World Retail Congress 2011 in Berlin this week Mike Shearwood, chief executive of Aurora Fashions, told delegates: “Retailers have been slow to adopt e-commerce and multi-channel because consumers have taken their time, but things are changing.”
Simon Forster, e-commerce director at Debenhams, suggested the biggest challenge for his business had been the “speed that customers have changed their attitudes” as he cited how mobile commerce had in 12 months gone from being 100 on the list of Debenhams’ customer demands list to now being in the top 10.
Research from CBRE released at the Congress revealed that only 33% of consumers surveyed across 10 European countries now believed it was important to ‘touch and feel’ fashion items before buying online.
This has led Debenhams to increase its range online – and expand it beyond what it is able to fit In its typical stores. Forster said furniture was introduced and that 70 per cent of this category’s sales were now online.
It was a similar story in the US with Macy’s. Janet Grove, vice chair of Macy’s, said the business enjoyed a 35 per cent increase in mattress sales when the category was placed online. Just like Debenhams, furniture became a brand new online business alongside its core fashion offer.
But along with an increasing level of online activity, retailers have recognised that linking their online offers to stores is absolutely vital. The CBRE research found 90 per cent of people visit stores to check a product before buying online and that two-thirds of people research online before buying in-store.
Shearwood believed this makes the options for pure-plays “limited” whereas the likes of Aurora are able to provide pick-up in-store options as well as 90-minute timed deliveries. The research also found 61 per cent of people were happy with buying a product online that was not available in their own country, which is leading Aurora and others to develop overseas websites – in local languages.
There is clearly little deterring consumers from shopping across borders. And it is the same with credit cards, with only 12 per cent stating it is a reason for not shopping. The biggest issue to affect levels of online sales is the cost of delivery, CBRE found.
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