Formalwear retailer Moss Bros is working on a strategy that could see the company open digitally-focused stores providing its customers with access to its online ranges and click & collect services.
With stores predominantly in London and south-east England, the concept would give the retailer an opportunity to take the brand into new UK markets with a smaller footprint and an eCommerce focus.
Commenting at an event in London on Thursday, hosted by web intelligence technology company Qubit, Moss Bros eCommerce director Neil Sansom said that a "showrooming store" of this nature would allow customers to make purchases online and have products delivered to the store or their home at a time convenient to them.
Although there are no firm plans by the company to open a store of this nature, its investigation into new formats comes at a time when many retailers across the UK are looking at ways to combat showrooming, where customers compare prices in-store using their mobile phones. Research released this week by mobile firm EE found that almost half of British consumers regularly practice showrooming to check prices in-store.
"We're at a very, very early stage of looking at what could be done, what types of technology could be used, what other people are doing – and really beginning to think through what something like this would look like," Sansom told Essential Retail.
"Having a store footprint helps the online direct business – it provides a halo, so if you can do that fairly cost efficiently then it's the kind of thing we want to look at and it's something customers potentially want as well.
"Customers are interacting in different ways with technology, be it technology you provide or technology they are bringing into the store, such as mobiles and tablets."
Sansom admits that the plans are "very much embryonic" but the business is investigating ways to develop such a concept over the next year or two.
Moss Bros is currently on a technological journey where it is in the process of developing its international online operations, investing in infrastructure systems to improve data management across all parts of its business and implementing digital receipts to strengthen its aftersales communication with customers. The retailer is also working with Qubit to analyse to gain real-time insight into the journeys its customers are making online.
In a big interview with Essential Retail earlier this year, Moss Bros CEO Brian Brick said that delivery and product fulfilment is a particularly crucial part of the modern retailing process, arguing that the businesses getting it right will gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.
Click & collect is a fulfilment option that is expected to grow significantly over the next few years, and the various ways to use this service are certainly part of Moss Bros's current strategy.
Sansom explained: "Click & collect is now in the majority of stores in the UK, and a showrooming-type store would obviously provide another location for a click & collect point.
"We are looking at other click & collect points already – we use CollectPlus's returns service and we'll be looking at delivery to lockers and local convenience stores as an opportunity going forward.
"You have to get your delivery and fulfilment proposition right, and I think you'll see a variety of fulfilment options being developed by us over the next few months – in partnership with other players – to enhance the customer choice."
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