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Ticking all the boxes

Four market-leading fashion businesses on making their multichannel operations work

The multiple

Aurora Fashions

When it comes to implementing a successful multichannel strategy, Aurora Fashions is out in front.

Richard Glanville, chief financial officer at the retail group, which owns Oasis, Coast and Warehouse, says it tries to think as an omnichannel retailer in everything it does: “We’ve got stores, department store concessions, our UK website, and now websites in the US, Australia and Germany and we’re shortly to be in four or five other countries, as well as on Asos.”

Last year, the retailer introduced iPads across its store portfolio and launched a 90-minute delivery service in London, which was rolled out to cover 90% of the country in May. Investing in its systems to allow better real-time stock reporting to facilitate its common stock pool enabled Aurora to launch its Anywhere, Everywhere supply chain management initiative in January, opening up its store inventories to fulfil cross-channel orders for the first time. The initiative led to a 28% uplift in availability of online products when it was trialled at selected stores in December, and £2.5m of extra sales. Full price sell-through on best-sellers has also risen from 80% to 98% in some instances. “We are finding that we’re selling more and more of our best-sellers, and losing less through fragmentation,” says Glanville.

However, he says getting Aurora’s stock file accurate and real-time took a lot of work to integrate systems across its ecommerce, store and central merchandising systems.

Looking ahead, Glanville says Aurora needs to work on its customer relationship management strategy, revealing that the chain is still having problems identifying customers in stores.

The basics

88% of UK sales from bricks

12% of UK sales from clicks

23% of sales from outside UK

3% of international sales are web via its multi-brand – Oasis, Warehouse and Coast – website in Germany 

The indie

Sarah Coggles

Having been named the number one independent fashion retailer in Drapers’ 2012 Inspiring Indies, York’s Sarah Coggles is known for its market-leading offer, which includes website

“The modern way of shopping isn’t just going down to the high street any more,” says Mark Bage, co-owner of the premium menswear and womenswear indie.

He recounts a story where a customer walked into the store amazed it existed, explaining that was his home page in Ohio, where he was from. draws fans from around the world with its diverse brand mix, regularly updated blog, street style picture gallery and editorial content. “We haven’t even started yet,” says Bage. “We’re around about the same size as Liberty [in terms of online sales] and traffic. I think most people think that’s totally unachievable as an indie. However, customers continue to be interested in what we do, because as our stock becomes more exclusive worldwide, we become more relevant to smaller pockets of people around the world,” he says.

Social media plays an important role in the indie’s multichannel strategy.

Sarah Coggles saw a 55% sales increase across every category over the past year. And while Bage remains tight-lipped about his plans for the business, it looks set to grow further yet.

The basics

25% of sales from bricks (approx)

75% of sales from clicks (approx)

6,991 Twitter followers

The department store

John Lewis

Department store John Lewis is renowned for offering a first-class retail proposition and customer service, no matter what channel customers are shopping on, and has become its biggest store in terms of sales.

Andrea O’Donnell, John Lewis’s commercial director, says multichannel is integral to the business, which constantly aims to be the UK’s leading multichannel retailer – a journey it started in 2008. Discussing customer research that was done at the time, she says: “We had a eureka moment. While we found that 13% of our customers were shopping online, 60% of John Lewis customers were online shoppers but not shopping on our site because they either didn’t know our site or didn’t like what it offered.”

John Lewis set about rectifying that by extending its online product offer to more accurately reflect its stores, with an even split between fashion, home and electrical home technology; changing its pricing structure to reflect the bricks-and-clicks pricing of its competitors; and by engaging its store staff, or ‘partners’, with the business’s new multichannel direction. Introducing click-and-collect in 2009 was another key moment, and now in any given week it accounts for 20% to 30% of online sales.

John Lewis’s strategy looks to have paid off, with O’Donnell revealing that 30% of its sales now come from the multichannel consumer, and forecasts that by 2020, 40% to 50% of the department store’s sales will come from online.

Intent on retaining its market-leading position, John Lewis is looking at improving its mobile offer, which includes a mobile-optimised website and an app, by introducing a suite of apps akin to different shopping experiences. O’Donnell explains that someone shopping for fashion is looking for a different experience to someone buying a sofa. John Lewis is trialling a virtual mirror in its Oxford Street store that allows customers to try on its full range of clothes, and will also introduce the concept into its Exeter store. This creative thinking will “bear lots of fruit” over the next five years, claims O’Donnell.

She says: “I think there is a strong sense that the digital and physical worlds are becoming one and the same, and if you want to be competitive as a retailer you need to offer a customer experience that reflects that.”

The basics

75% sales from bricks

25% sales from clicks

20% of online orders are via mobile and tablet devices

The brand

Pretty Green

Men’s young fashion brand Pretty Green has built up a reputation for a forward-thinking approach to multichannel, and for having embraced mobile in particular.

Director Nigel Grant says: “The needs of consumers are changing with the development of mobile technology, so consequently you’ve got to react to changing lifestyles. People are on the move constantly and finding new ways to engage with brands, so our strategy is to facilitate that across any channel that they want to shop.

“However, we started with an ecommerce and m-commerce strategy at the core of our business and [bricks-and-mortar] retail was secondary, so we’re approaching it from a slightly different bias.”

Pretty Green is now a fully fledged multichannel retailer with 10 stores, and has become known for its innovative use of mobile payment app Simply Tap, which is operated by Mobile Money Network, to marry up the two channels. In-store products feature a Simply Tap code and customers can just enter those codes into the app, which stores their payment details and preferred delivery address, saving them time and avoiding the frustratingly long checkout process associated with many retailers’ mobile offerings. The retailer also uses the app to alert customers about in-store events. In May, it teamed up with Simply Tap and Universal Music UK to open a virtual record store. 

Although he declines to divulge the brand’s sales split across stores, ecommerce and mobile, Grant does reveal that the brand will continue to grow its bricks-and-mortar presence on the UK high streets, is considering introducing click-and-collect, and also exclusively tells Drapers it has plans for international expansion, starting in Japan, with a Tokyo-based store, localised website and local fulfilment.

Grant says: “We’ll approach foreign markets in the same way we approached the UK, cultivating them in an organic way via a localised offering both on and offline.”

The basics

82,687 Facebook likes

29,996 Twitter followers

10 stores

Read more features from the Multichannel report

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