After managing to survive a grand total of 6 weeks without a mobile phone, I finally went online to pick a model and subscription service. I decided I now needed the phone immediately so phoned the company to find out if I could pick it up from the local store. Nope, that’s not how the system works. Attempting to make a purchase online and then collect the new toy from the store wasn’t an option, and the phone company couldn’t guarantee a phone would be in stock by the time I reach the store. Hmpfff. So I ordered the phone online and waited for it to be delivered, which ended up taking 5 days. “There’s got to be a better way”, I thought…

Fast forward 10 days to today and, funny old world that it is, I read an interesting article in the Financial Times: ‘The new profit pick me up‘ (requires subscription).

Retail companies have begun to discover that there is money to be made by offering a service where people can order goods online and collect them from the nearest store. One of the early adopters, Circuit City (sells electronic goods), expects online order/in-store pick-up to account for 62% of its online business this year. The reason for the popularity of the service? Customers who don’t want to wait around at home, take the risk of having products left sitting on their doorstep or have the inconvenience of trekking to the delivery company’s depot to collect a missed-delivery.

Another early adopter, REI (sells equipment and clothing for outdoor pursuits), has discovered benefits for its product line. It is seeing significant orders being placed at locations such as Seattle with customers selecting the store closest to their trip destination to pick up equipment. “It’s growing faster than the overall growth of our business,” commented Noel Nelson, head of REI’s direct sales.

Perhaps the most innovative benefit so far has been discovered by Circuit City, who launched a 24/24 guarantee service. According to Fiona Dias of Circuit City, “On Christmas Eve, we had this torrent of people coming through the door for pickups. We have become the modern-day hallway closet… rather than hiding a present, they leave it at our store.”

So what sort of company enables customers to buy and receive products when and where they want to? The ones with with systems that make it possible to get the right stock to the right location for the right customer at the right time… Sound familiar?

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