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High Street Hit or Miss: Click-and-collect

Find out which retailers came out on top when Drapers’ mystery shoppers put the high street’s click-and-collect delivery services to the test.

In the race to develop ever-faster, more efficient and consumer-friendly delivery options, click-and-collect can seem like a golden ticket for both retailers and shoppers. Customers browse and buy online, and pick up the next time they visit their chosen store, rather than waiting for the dreaded “sorry we missed you” delivery slip on the doormat. Meanwhile, retailers draw in business online and are able to bring increasingly high street-shy consumers directly into their stores.

Click-and-collect promises to make online delivery more efficient for retailers and shoppers alike, and so business is booming. As more and more retailers offer the service, third-party providers such as Doddle are enabling a wider audience to pick up their goods from collection points. Larger stores such as John Lewis and House of Fraser offer click-and-collect screens in store, so customers can order desired items immediately, and are also devoting larger areas of floor space to collection desks. Although some big-name high street brands such as Oasis, Mango and H&M still do not offer the service, it is becoming an increasingly powerful tool for driving footfall to bricks-and-mortar stores.

As the number of stores offering click-and-collect steadily rises, and the features offered by each store become ever more advanced – some promise “20-minute pick-up” or “instant delivery” – Drapers put retailers’ services to the test, to see just how slick they really are. Drapers placed orders, and then ventured on to London’s high streets to test the service from start to finish, and see who could live up to their grand online promises.

Next day delivery items were ordered between 3.30pm and 4pm on Thursday 11 August. Standard delivery items were ordered between 4.30pm and 5.30pm on Tuesday 9 August. Orders were picked up either from Oxford Street or Westfield Stratford City branches of stores in London.

How the retailers scored

House of Fraser

House of Fraser

House of Fraser

Score: 9.5/10

House of Fraser was ahead of the pack with a fast, efficient and free service that offered text updates and an impeccable in-store set-up

Pros

Overnight delivery is free on all orders at House of Fraser. The option is easy to find on the website and the most convenient store can be found easily by a postcode or area search. Delivery is confirmed the next day with a mobile phone text to make pick-up easier. Where House of Fraser particularly excels is the in-store service. On entering the Oxford Street store, a priority lift takes customers to the “Buy & Collect” area on floor five, where the desk is clearly signed. Shopper are directed to the pick-up point and can try on their order in dedicated changing rooms. Pick-up takes less than five minutes overall, the package is found quickly, and my details are double checked by efficient and friendly staff before it is handed over.

Cons

The only flaw in the service is that on arrival at the pick-up point there are no staff on the tills. However, a member of staff appears almost immediately. Given that the store is relatively quiet at the time, though, this is not really a problem.

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Schuh

Schuh

Schuh

Score: 9/10 

Top marks for online usability and the option for immediate reservation

Pros

One particularly neat feature of Schuh’s click-and-collect service is the “20-minute” pick-up option. When clicking through to payment online, the site shows precisely how long it will take for the shoes to be available – for some pairs can be collected almost immediately. It sounds like a big ask, but the feature actually works. With a prompt mobile phone text and email to confirm the order, the shoes are ready and waiting behind the tills at Schuh in Westfield Stratford City an hour later. Such a lightning-fast process makes the experience unusually exciting. All click-and-collect delivery is free at Schuh, and estimated delivery times are given for each order independently online. In store, the service is fast and efficient. A dedicated collection point would feel out of place in such a small store. 

Cons

Although the custom delivery times for each shoe are helpful, it would be useful to have a general guide for how long delivery could take without having to click through to ordering.

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Score: 8/10 

Fast and free delivery, fluid in-store service and premium-quality packaging 

Pros

Delivery is free on all orders from Reiss and, although it can take up to three days, the item I order is dispatched and delivered within two. Orders can be tracked online and status updates appear next to the order details. Reiss also emails if an item is left in your bag online, which can prompt hesitant shoppers. In-store collection is quick. Although Reiss has no dedicated collection point at its Westfield Stratford City store, the first member of staff I ask locates the item immediately and offers to place completion of the transaction on pause until the item is tried on, so no payment is taken in the event of a return. The garment was nicely packaged and wrapped in tissue paper with no obvious creases – a level of presentation and service befitting a higher-end store.

Cons

Although email updates on the delivery status are prompt, some service providers identify them as junk mail, and, as Reiss does not send updates via text message, my order appears to have failed for the first two days. The dropdown list of stores to select for delivery is less user-friendly than other retailers’ and there is no clear online search function.  

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John Lewis

John Lewis

John Lewis

Score: 8/10

Excellent service and efficiency but more geared for the store’s electrical and homeware departments

Pros

With guaranteed next-day delivery, mobile phone text and email updates, and a dedicated store department for click-and-collect, John Lewis’s service is extremely efficient and easy to navigate. Its click-and-collect inventory includes brands such as Oasis and Warehouse, which do not operate their own service. Online the process is easy: clearly marked maps show the store location and we receive regular update emails. The collection area in the Westfield Stratford City store is well signposted and just metres from the car park for ease of pick-up for larger items. The desk has a waiting area with seats – the only example we saw.

Cons

Although the dedicated area is comfortable and well designed, it is sited in the electricals department, and the fitting rooms and returns desk are two floors above. The charge of £2.99 for orders under £30 is offputting and demonstrates John Lewis’s focus on the service for electricals and homeware, rather than fashion.

 

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Office

Score: 8/10

Slick, fast and free service marred only by a couple of minor online hitches

Pros

Overall the service is fast and easy to navigate both in store and online. Office’s click-and-collect service is free for all orders and the option is easy to find on the website, appearing directly below the standard delivery options. Despite an estimated delivery time of three to five days and no express option, I am notified by email when the shoes arrive at the Westfield Stratford City within two days. In store the service is fast and, although there is no dedicated click-and-collect till, the first member of staff I ask is able to find the order on his electronic pad and hands over the order in the time it takes to walk to the till. The staff behind the till give the option of trying on the shoes before the order is confirmed, to ensure the product ordered is correct, and are extremely friendly and helpful throughout.

Cons

Online it is difficult to select the desired store for delivery – when the store’s postcode is entered the website first suggests a shop five miles away from Westfield Stratford City. When the correct store is eventually selected, the map is inaccurate.

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Debenhams

Debenhams

Score: 7.5/10

Chirpy staff and a smooth online experience but a remote collection and returns desks slow an otherwise fast experience.

Pros

The online ordering service for Debenhams is smooth: payment is easy and the Oxford Street store is selected with a simple postcode search. Emails are sent at each stage of the order, which is promptly delivered the morning. Next-day delivery across all items is free. In store, the staff are friendly and helpful. They find the order within seconds and direct me to the changing rooms close by. There are click-and-collect screens dotted around the shop floor to order items in store, although the staff also offer to order a replacement directly from the tills.

Cons

Despite friendly staff and an extremely fast pick-up time, the click-and-collect desk is located right at the far side of the store, which means spending a long time on the store’s escalators. There is no seating area around the desk, and in such a large store this would be helpful for busier times. Returns must be completed in the department of the store they were ordered from, which means a walk two floors down to the womenswear tills.

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River Island

River Island

River Island

Score: 7/10

No-fuss delivery and collection as well as regular delivery updates make for an easy and efficient service

Pros

River Island’s standard click-and-collect delivery is free, and takes up to five working days. Express next-day delivery costs £5.99. However, River Island’s website gives each store a different guaranteed delivery date, many of which are less than five days. This is a nice detail and makes the whole ordering process feel very clear. Dispatch and delivery emails are  prompt, and I am informed of the item’s arrival at the Westfield Stratford City store within two days, despite being guaranteed for delivery within four. In store, the pick-up was fast. The changing room is just behind the store’s only till area, which serves as the click-and-collect and returns desk. Staff are accommodating, and offer unprompted to order a different size if the item does not fit.

Cons

There is no dedicated click-and-collect point and, with only four tills, this could mean a long wait for orders at busy times. There is nowhere to wait for orders and standing by the tills while the item is located could feel intrusive to other customers.

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Next

Next

Next

Score:  7/10

Highly efficient in-store service marred by an inconvenient online system

Pros

Of all the brands to send mobile phone text messages when items are ready for collection, Next is the only one to say where the pick-up point is in the Bond Street store, enabling me to head straight for the womenswear tills, which are clearly indicated as the click-and-collect point. In store the service is  fast and efficient. The helpful staff locate and hand over items in less than a minute. The staff are happy to process a return and order a replacement immediately if the product is wrong or does not fit, so there is no need to go to a separate desk, as in John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Debenhams.

Cons

The main flaw in Next’s service is that some Next stores do not offer collection. This may be understandable for some smaller regional stores, but the store I initially select is at Westfield Stratford City – one of the retailer’s largest and most modern stores. Instead I have to choose one of Next’s two Oxford Street stores. The online process is clunky to use, and there are frequent unexplained errors.

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M&S

M&S

Marks & Spencer

Score: 7/10

Very fast and well-organised online, but let down by an understaffed collection point in store

Pros

The Marks & Spencer website selects click-and-collect as a main delivery option, and next-day delivery is free on orders placed before 8pm. As promised, the item arrives the following day, promptly at 11.30am, as an email confirms. The click-and-collect space in the Westfield Stratford City store is signposted from the entrance, although there is a long walk through the large retail space. Once at the front of the queue the service is very fast. My name and ID are checked, and the item is presented in a paper bag with the details of the order printed on the outside.

Cons

Although the initial online service is fast and efficient, the dedicated area in store is understaffed and hidden behind the returns desk. There are no changing rooms nearby. Despite a long queue there is only one staff member on the desk. I cannot return my package at the same till that I collected it from, and I have to wait in another long queue at the adjacent returns desk, which adds another five minutes to the pick-up. Murmurs of complaint and boredom among those queuing proves M&S needs to upgrade its in-store service to match its online efficiency.

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Score: 6.5/10

User friendly and simple service, but slow on standard delivery and a disappointing charge for express

Pros

As you would expect for a youthful brand, the online side of Topshop’s click-and-collect service is practically flawless. Store selection and location options are easy to use, and a guaranteed delivery date is displayed before the order is confirmed. Text and email updates about the item’s dispatch and delivery are similarly timely. In the Westfield Stratford City store, one till is dedicated to click-and-collect. The service is fast and efficient, and ID and order numbers are checked before the item is handed over. There was also a changing room close by for both men and women. Quirky packaging is a nice addition, although the item inside the bag is crumpled.

Cons

Despite a good overall service, delivery was much slower than other orders – arriving five days after ordering. Although Topshop do offer an express next day click-and-collect service it comes with a charge of £3, which seems unnecessary considering how many retailers offer the same service for free. While staff were friendly and helpful, the till is covered in shoes waiting to be put out in store, which gives the shop a cluttered and disorganised feel.

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New Look

Score: 6.5/10

In-store collection points demonstrate a growing focus on click-and-collect, but in reality there are some sticking points for the service 

Pros

With a large dedicated collection point in its Westfield Stratford City store, New Look is another brand clearly focusing on click-and-collect. Online ordering is fast and efficient, and followed by email updates on the delivery’s progress. The item arrives unexpectedly in store the next day – much more quickly than the promised three to five working days. The collection area has two dedicated changing rooms and is clearly signposted throughout the store. 

Cons

Although generally a good service, there are a couple of issues in the ordering process: the store locator suggests a store in the US when a London postcode is entered and there is no clear differentiation between New Look’s two stores in Stratford. And, while I wait Westfield Stratford City store for my item to be retrieved, no fewer than three customers arrive to collect orders they have inadvertently placed at the other branch. At the dedicated collection point only one of five tills is in use. In addition, the order is handed over without checking ID or order details. Only a name was taken, which calls into question the thoroughness of the service.

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Zara

Zara

Score: 3/10

Instant delivery and text updates are a bonus but cannot salvage a slow and chaotic in-store experience

Pros

The click-and-collect option is automatically selected when ordering from the Zara website, and the service is free – usually taking three to five working days. However, shortly after ordering an email and text  confirm the item is available for immediate collection from the Westfield Stratford City store. The presentation of the order is good: each piece is individually wrapped in tissue paper and comes in a sturdy, high-quality box.

Cons

In total, collecting the order from the store took 45 minutes. The click-and-collect desk doubles as the childrenswear till and is not clearly signposted. On reaching the front of the queue, those collecting items are directed to another queue. Order numbers are taken haphazardly by a hesitant shop assistant who then disappears for more than 25 minutes to search for them. There are at least 10 customers waiting for orders and this store is clearly not set up to deal with the demand. There is no waiting area or seating, so those waiting for orders, are left standing. Although the staff are apologetic about the delay, Zara seems ill-equipped to deal with the volume of click-and-collect orders.

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