As we’ve witnessed the decrease of in-store purchasing, we’ve also seen online retail sales soar by 36 per cent over the last 12 months - the highest growth in 13 years. How can retailers leverage their store networks into a powerful tool that will not only save the British high street, but simultaneously offer powerful logistical innovation to capture higher market shares?

Turning stores into micro-fulfilment centres

We believe that the stores of the future have a dual role. They will act as experiential spaces for customers to discover brands, their new products and initiate the act of purchase - however they will also serve as a key link in the supply chain to provide innovative delivery options for customers.

The physical store presence acts as an enabler for the digital part of the business, with stores turning into hyper-localised micro fulfilment centres. By pushing more orders through the ecommerce platforms, retailers can then use their stores to distribute their products in a faster and more convenient manner, whilst creating more sustainable delivery options for customers. As Accenture’s latest study on last mile has shown:

the implementation of mico fulfilment centres has decreased traffic volumes - and by consequence emissions - by 13% in urban centres like London.

Ship from store - the fulfillment process that enables retailers to ship orders directly from their brick-and-mortar locations to their end-customers - can help the high street evolve and allow for retailers to join the speed and convenience of delivery pioneered by giants like Amazon. 

Shipping from store: The key logistical benefits

Shipping from store has a lot of advantages for all actors in the ecommerce relationship, from the retailer to the end-customer.  By relieving the pressure on traditional distribution centres, and leveraging stores as mini distribution centres, the retailer can implement faster and more convenient delivery times for the end-customer. The geographical proximity - an incredible advantage that stores create - allows for quicker deliveries, but also for more sustainable transport types to be deployed, such as bikes. 

Naturally, there are some elements that retailers have to consider - live stock visibility, package labelling - but these are all elements that can be seamlessly integrated. Ensuring that these elements, as well as a reliable last mile delivery provider like Stuart, are all accounted for, will allow for the retail industry to evolve and provide the fast, convenient and sustainable options customers are expecting.

With US players such as Nordstrom seeing a 39% increase in sales following the integration of its online and in-store inventories, and Metapack reporting that other retailers have seen their online sales increase by 30% since they started using their stores as fulfilment centers, we can see that the process of converting stores to this new hybrid model is very much underway. 

The future of retail lies at the crossroads of the physical and digital experience, with the former enabling the latter to create a faster, more sustainable and more convenient customer proposition to help retailers stand out from the crowd and thrive in a post-pandemic world.

For the full detailed piece on the future of retail and the dual purpose of high street stores, click here ➡️ Business Reporter

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