With Mary Portas on the case to save our nation’s high streets, there is already a lot of defeatist talk in the property and retail industries about what her report can meaningfully achieve. But the naysayers who claim the high street is beyond redemption should check out their local corner shop.
Paypoint, the company that provides the technology to let you pay your gas bill and top up your phone in your local newsagents, has a new service. It thinks it can tap in to the internet shopping boom by dealing with the least convenient part – the delivery.
We can order virtually anything over the internet these days, but the frustration of missing a delivery, or humping parcels home from the office on an overcrowded tube, is to become a thing of the past. The new service, called Collect Plus, means your parcels can be delivered to 3,500 participating corner shops in the UK. Even better, the shops also handle returns of unwanted goods – the other great disadvantage of internet shopping – thus avoiding an hour-long queue in the local post office. ASOS, the internet clothing giant, has been one of the first to sign up.
Great for the shopper, who can pop in on their way home and collect their stuff. And great for the shop keepers, who have another income stream, and hope the increase in footfall will boost sales of other products.
Unsurprisingly, the supermarkets are also echoing this trend. The likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s have been quick to take local convenience stores, expanding into suburban areas. And this week, Sainsbury’s has announced a “click and collect” service for electrical and household goods ordered via its website at a network of 800 stores, large and small, by Christmas. This “multi channel” approach to shopping has served big retailers like Argos and Debenhams very well; shoppers love the certainty and convenience of knowing they will get their goods, rather than the heart-sinking moment of seeing a “missed delivery” card on the doormat.
Ultimately, it’s good for retailers as well, as the cost of rearranging deliveries and administrating the return of unwanted goods eats in to profits. And if the local high street is being used as the collection point, that has to go a step towards bringing back the lost “bustle” Mary Portas has been ordered to investigate.