By Phil Wahba
WEST NYACK, NEW YORK Dec 24 Retailers are
trying new ways to win over Christmas procrastinators.
Brick-and-mortar chains seeking ways to improve this
season's soft sales made it easier for last-minute consumers to
finish their shopping on Christmas Eve. More customers this year
will be able to pick up orders placed online in stores on
Tuesday, the last shopping day before Christmas.
For retailers, it can mean lower shipping costs - protecting
profit margins - and the potential for more last-minute business
when consumers visit.
"There is not a whole lot you can do at the 11th hour, but
this is one of the few levers you can pull," said Sucharita
Mulpuru, an e-commerce analyst at Forrester Research, about what
the industry calls "omni-channel" shopping.
"If they can convince even 1 percent more customers to come
to their stores, that's a big win."
Sales at retail stores, excluding e-commerce, fell 2.1
percent this past weekend, the busiest of the season, according
to data firm ShopperTrak. That came three weeks after a poor
showing on Thanksgiving weekend, raising concerns the season is
turning out to be a bust.
By Tuesday, most retailers had slashed prices to encourage
purchases. Aeropostale Inc offered an extra 50 percent
off on items already marked down while Abercrombie & Fitch
touted half off everything in the store. Gap Inc
was offering up to 60 percent off select items.
Stores wouldn't say how much in-store pickup would
contribute to sales, but Target Corp started its
in-store pickup service in November for select items, and Macy's
Inc is testing it at about 10 Washington, D.C. area
Ten years ago, Sears was one of the first retailers
to introduce order online and pick-up at stores. This year,
customers can use an app and have deliveries brought to the
curb, said Brian Hanover, a spokesman for Sears. "This is a
procrastinator's dream," he said.
Wal-Mart Stores is offering three times as many
products this year as last year that can be picked up in stores
using this service.
"This is helpful because you get better deals online," said
Shantelle Williams, 47, who Tuesday picked up a large screen
television at a Walmart in Suffern, New York, which she had
ordered on Black Friday while visiting another state. "I didn't
have to come in to see if they had those items. "
Gap Inc's "reserve-in-store" service, launched in
June and expanded before the holiday season, lets shoppers go
online to ask one of 600 Gap or Banana Republic stores to hold
up to five items. The service was available on Christmas Eve.
Shoppers now visit 3 to 3.5 stores per trip, down from 4.5
to 5 stores in 2007, according to Bill Martin, founder of data
firm ShopperTrak. That makes it even more important for
retailers to make the best use of their shops.
Another benefit to offering in-store pickup: Shoppers like
it. More than 40 percent of people wanted the relatively new,
unknown service, according to a poll conducted last week of
3,308 online shoppers for Reuters by Bizrate Insights.
"On line ordering is so much easier," said Laurie Connelly,
47, who was at a Best Buy Co Tuesday in West Nyack, New
York - 40 miles north of New York City - to pick up a printer
she had ordered online. "You come in to pick up your orders, and
no lines. It's great especially on a busy day like today."
BIGGER SHARE OF THE HOLIDAY E-COMMERCE PIE
Blending e-commerce and stores is already paying off for
Online orders filled by a mix of both stores and e-commerce
distribution centers accounted for 21 percent of e-commerce
sales this holiday season compared with 17 percent in 2012,
according to eBay Enterprise CEO Chris Sadirakis.
EBay Enterprise clients include Aeropostale, Dick's
Sporting Goods, Toys R Us, and GNC.
The use of stores to help fill online merchandise sent to
shoppers' homes is also increasing. The ability to use unsold
merchandise in stores to fill an online order helps margins by
moving an item that might otherwise have ended up in the
Macy's Inc now uses 500 of its 810 stores to help fill
orders, up from 300 last year, and Kohl's Corp began
"ship-from-store" service this year at 200 of its 1,100 stores.
Wal-Mart is testing it at 35 of its 4,100 U.S. stores.
The next step, according to many analysts, will be for
stores to provide the same-day delivery already available in
some major cities by Amazon and EBay.
Amazon shoppers can get same-day delivery on Christmas Eve
in major cities such as Seattle and New York.
EBay Enterprise's Sadirakis told Reuters he expected
same-day delivery to be a much bigger part of the 2014 holiday
season as retailers fine-tune it in the next year.
"You want your website to get people into your stores, and
you want your stores to get people to shop on your website,"
said ShopperTrak's Bill Martin.
Otherwise, retailers will continue to see traffic drop, he