Insight around the world

EMMA HERROD, EDITOR, INTERNETRETAILING 

Recent news from retailers overseas include significant operational developments for Prénatal and Australia’s Country Road Group and pizzas delivered by robot in the Netherlands and Germany.

Meanwhile, of significance for UK retailers, is the closure, on 1st April, of the last of Marks & Spencer’s ten brick and mortar shops in China as the retailer cuts back on loss-making operations in international markets. Adam Colton, Managing Director of M&S Greater China, said: “Our decision to close our Chinese stores was driven by the fact that our stores continue to make losses and we have low brand awareness. Growth in market share is also challenging given the nature of the market.”

M&S opened its first store in China on West Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s premier shopping street, in October 2008. The 40,000 square foot flagship store was Marks & Spencer’s largest in Asia. At the time, the company saw China as “an exciting long-term opportunity” and was part of its plans “to grow its international business to 15-20 per cent of Group revenues”.

In 2014, under CEO Marc Bolland, the company was still extending its bricks and clicks approach to international growth, building flagship stores in key cities and supporting them online. It planned to focus on growing within existing and priority markets of India, China, Russia, the Middle East and Western Europe. At the time Bolland said that over the next three years M&S aimed to build 250 new stores as it looked to grow international turnover by 25% and profits by 40%.

The difficult trading conditions in international markets were highlighted by the results in its past financial year to 2 April 2016; Its owned International business delivered a loss of £31.5m with international operating profit down by 39.6% to £55.8m. The company has since announced that it will cease trading in ten loss-making markets in which it owns stores including the ten stores in China, seven in France and all of its stores in Belgium, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

Commenting in November 2016, CEO Steve Rowe, said “These are tough decisions, but vital to building a future M&S that is simpler, more relevant, multi-channel and focused on delivering sustainable returns.”

The company will continue to develop its international presence through strong franchise partners instead. Nor is it withdrawing completely from China. It will continue to sell online through its Tmall store. “Online shopping continues to grow in scale and relevance as Chinese customers look for more choice and greater convenience. Since we launched on Tmall in December 2012, we’ve continued to see our customer demand for our products online, resulting in strong double digit growth on 11.11 [Single’s Day] including our best ever performance in Kidswear,” said Colton.

“Going forward we will focus on growing our business on Tmall – leverage its scale, logistics and local expertise to offer customers across the whole of China access to over 3,000 quality M&S clothing products.”

Elsewhere, autonomous delivery robots developed by Starship Technologies are delivering pizzas within a 1 mile radius around Domino’s stores in a number of cities in Germany and the Netherlands. Domino’s Robotic Unit will oversee the partnership, after testing both ground and air based delivery solutions last year.

Don Meij, Domino’s Group CEO and Managing Director, commented: “We are a global company and we are eager to progress innovative technology in all of the countries in which we operate – we are very excited to be partnering with Starship as it brings regular deliveries by robot one step closer to commercial operations.

“Robotic delivery units will complement our existing delivery methods, including cars, scooters and e-bikes, ensuring our customers can get the hottest, freshest-made pizza delivered directly to them, wherever they are.

“With our growth plans over the next five to 10 years, we simply won’t have enough delivery drivers if we do not look to add to our fleet through initiatives such as this.”

Prénatal, the European retailer of goods for babies is to amalgamate its store and ecommerce stock into one location a move which also sees it extending its warehouse and supply chain contract with Geodis. “As a retailer, your stock is your most important asset,” says Ardjan van den Blonk, Manager Supply Chain at Prénatal Moeder en Kind. “You want to serve your consumers as well as possible, regardless of where they make their purchase – through a store or a webshop. An omnichannel inventory will prevent stock from being unnecessarily located at different sites and this will help us better meet customer needs.”

In Australia, Country Road Group, one of the county’s largest specialty fashion retailers, has implemented Manhattan’s Warehouse Management Solution in a move which is part of its business transformation. The technology deployment is a key component designed to deliver a unified brand experience for customers across channels and to drive ongoing business growth.

Country Road Group consists of five brands with over 700 stores and a growing online operation. The retailer had outgrown its outsourced logistics services model and recognised the critical need to take greater command of its supply chain by investing in a new distribution centre.

Closer to home, tall womenswear retailer Long Tall Sally has launched an ecommerce site for the Irish market as part of a wider expansion across Europe. “With a database of 8,000 customers in Ireland, it is only right to roll out the same excellent service that our UK customers enjoy: namely faster standard delivery, local returns, UK sizing and free customer care telephone number,” said Alison Doherty, Chief Operating Officer, Long Tall Sally.

The Irish website was followed by the launch of a localised Dutch website in April. Long Tall Sally now has nine dedicated country websites, serving markets that also include Australia and New Zealand. In all, it has 13 websites, including English-language versions of its French and German sites, a Eurozone site and an international site. It also trades via 26 stores in the US, Canada, UK and Germany.

LAUREN HOGG, UK MARKETING MANAGER, COMARCH

Retailers invest in loyalty programmes for a number of reasons – and it’s not just to build loyalty.

Our research of more than 3,000 consumers across six countries (UK, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and Poland) has found that consumers are generally willing to share personal data with retailers if they see a real return, such as personalised offers and unique rewards. They also, understandably, want transparency in how their data is handled. Almost half (45%) of Brits are interested in personalised offers based on personal data. In contrast, Germans are least interested in personalised offers (34%) and Italians are most interested (56%), with Switzerland (40%), France (42%) and Poland (44%) nearer to the overall average of 43%.

Rewards are also important to people – especially in the Italian and British markets where 89% said it was important to be rewarded if their data was used for marketing purposes. Personalised rewards were almost as important to the other markets, with 85% of Polish consumers finding them important, followed by the Swiss (81%) and German markets (80%). The Dutch (78%) are least interested in rewards in exchange for data use, but they’re the most interested in being able to see what kind of personal data the company collects.

Consumers share a wealth of information about themselves, but they do so expecting a better, more tailored service as a result. They want greater control and awareness of how their data is used, and they want to benefit from sharing their data.

This attitude represents a great opportunity for retailers that use customer data to enhance the services they provide. By ensuring that data is used in a way that benefits customers, and by being honest about what the data is used for, retailers can start to shape a mutually beneficial relationship with consumers.