We were expecting this.
We were expecting this.
In today’s retail environment, the online and brick-and-mortar roles are reversing. The Internet is becoming the storefront, and in the last months of 2020, half of holiday shoppers plan to use curbside or contactless pickup. The store is evolving into the new-age version of the traditional cross-dock, where forward inventory moves through a central point coordinating the transfer. There are more SKUs listed on a retailer’s website than the average store carries on shelves or in back rooms. A consumer searching for unique, hard-to-find products will likely see them, and buy them, online rather than at a store.
Much like a successful marriage, the relationship between a shipper and its logistics partner has to be mutually-beneficial, trust-based and productive. Without these qualities, one or both parties will quickly find themselves wondering why they entered into the agreement.
The role of e-commerce in keeping the United States and world economies going was never more evident than during the first half of 2020. Before the global pandemic and the lock-downs and shelter-in-place orders that followed, e-commerce comprised about 12 percent of U.S. retail sales. That percentage will grow dramatically in the years ahead. Consumers who once gathered in malls and stores to do their buying found that e-commerce had become their only buying source, almost overnight. Many who had never tried online purchasing found it easy and convenient. Retail will never be the same again. Never.
In the 1980s, Service Merchandise was a retail force. The “catalog showroom” shopping experience attracted scores of customers. Beyond the “touch and feel” aspect of products on display, the retailer evolved forward-thinking fulfillment strategies using brick-and-mortar satellite order-only centers linked to an off-site warehouse. These suburban locations offered customers convenience and the promise of inventory that is always in-stock.
In retail, timing is everything. Deliver what consumers want where and when they want it, and you can carve a success path that lasts until consumer preferences change or another company performs your functions better. A lesson learned by retailers like Blockbuster, Circuit City and Sears: Your time in the limelight is limited before someone comes and steals it.
Knowing that customers flocked to its stores to “experience” a select number of products, and willing to test out new technologies and retail strategies, Service Merchandise nailed fulfillment and omnichannel in the 1980s with its showroom-catalog approach.