Government plans to ease restrictions over click-and-collect will not be the silver bullet needed to help independent retailers keep pace with multiples online, the industry has warned.
High streets minister Penny Mordaunt proposed this week (August 11) that shop owners be given the freedom to add covered collection points or lockers to their premises, which could be available 24 hours a day. New loading bay doors and ramps could also be installed so more deliveries can be taken for local online shoppers to collect in store.
Any new click-and-collect facilities can only be added within the existing boundaries of premises, such as car parks, and the proposals exclude listed buildings. Retailers will only be allowed to increase the size of an existing loading bay by up to 20%.
High streets minister Penny Mordaunt said: “Click-and-collect is set to be the next big thing on the high street, as discerning online shoppers look to the convenience of the high street as much as their computer screens.
“[These] proposals would help not just larger retailers, but also independent and smaller shops to benefit, ensuring their premises are fit for the needs of the 21st-century shopper.”
Independent retailers told Drapers click-and-collect was increasingly important, but warned for many it was not as simple as adding covered collection points.
George Graham, chief executive and co-founder of designer independent Wolf & Badger, which offers an in-store collection service during normal opening hours at its stores in Mayfair and Notting Hill in London, said the business had no intention of extending this service in the short term, despite the relaxed planning rules.
“Online is the fastest-growing part of the business but, due to the [premium] nature of the goods we sell, it’s very much underpinned by the customer coming in to handle or try items on before making a purchase.
“We stock a high-end, premium product and it [out-of-hours click-and-collect] doesn’t quite fit with the experience. It’s not a book from Amazon.”
Dave Light, managing director of JD Sports-owned designer retailer Tessuti, said it could not make the suggested changes because its 17 stores are based in shopping centres. It has been offering click-and-collect for about 18 months, but only in store during opening hours.
It is trying to increase this service by allowing customers to collect goods from JD’s stores, of which there are approximately 1,000 across the UK.
Emma Woodward, co-founder of womenswear and accessories independent Aspire Style, which has four stores in Solihull, Oxford, Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon, said it is hoping to introduce in-store click-and-collect services by Christmas and could look to take advantage of these new rules.
“The challenge for us is we stock slightly different items in our four stores, so we’d have to think about how to get the right item to the customer in time,” she warned.