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Front matter – Carpetright sees result from investment

Carpet retailer Carpetright [RCPR] says it is reaping rewards from its investment in multichannel sales. The company says that it is seeing significant traffic to the site, resulting in hundreds of appointments a week. Each week some 55,000 unique visitors arrive at the site, resulting in 800 samples being sent out and almost 700 appointments being made. The Carpetright website offers free measuring and estimating appointments.

“The samples/appointment leads can be specifically tracked to store sales, demonstrating the importance of having an effective and integrated multichannel proposition,” said the company in its half-year results announcement to the stockmarket in December.

The company added that pre-tax profits fell to £9.8m in the 26 weeks to October 30 from £11m at the same time the previous year. Total group sales was also down, at £248m from £258m last time, with like-for-like sales down by 6.1% in the UK and Ireland. But at the same time net debt fell by £12.8m to £58.5m.

Lord Harris of Peckham, Chairman and Chief Executive, said the company had remained profitable against a ‘challenging’ economy.

He said: “Whilst we remain cautious about the retail market in the balance of the financial year and throughout 2011, the board has confidence that the group is well positioned to deliver future sales growth when consumer demand in our sector improves.”

The company’s strategy is therefore focusing on measures including developing additional sales channels, such as multichannel.

The Carpetright website was voted retail website of the year in the Retail Systems Awards 2010.

New Look Leads Checkout

Fashion retailer New Look has been singled out for the usability of its checkout in a study from web design and accessibility agency Nomensa. The agency says the website rated highly in efficiency and user-experience design, but was “streets ahead of all the other sites” for emotional engagement.

Nomensa’s checkout usability study analysed websites from leading UK ecommerce websites, chosen from the IMRG’s Hot Shops Top 100 List of June 2010.

Judging them on emotional design, efficiency, and user experience (UX) design of the checkout process, it put New Look in first place with 77 points out of 90, Argos (70.5) in second and John Lewis (68) in third. They were followed by Debenhams, Apple’s UK store, B&Q, Next, Play and Marks & Spencer. Two further retailers could not be analysed because of difficulties adding addresses to an order on their sites.

Report author Juliet Richardson said New Look gained its advantage through the emotional engagement of its site, which included features to inspire confidence and trust. For example, information about delivery charges, returns and security, and the customer support number were displayed prominently.

Traditional retail key to online

Traditional retail skills are just as important to online businesses as to their high street counterparts. That was the message from online retailers Nick Robertson, Chief Executive of and Mark Newton-Jones, Chief Executive of the Shop Direct Group , speaking at a Skillsmart Retail Parliamentary session to mark the launch of Skillsmart’s Understanding the Impact of Online Trading on UK Retailing 2010 report.

Nick Robertson said: “I think the reason we’ve been able to grow as quickly as we have is because a lot of the skills we have at ASOS are just good, traditional retail skills. We have a very big buying and merchandising team and all those buyers and merchandisers have come from high street stores. The good news for us is that we have been able to grow because a lot of the skills already exist out there.”

Focusing on customer service, Mark Newton-Jones said: “This is really difficult and it’s one of the things people struggle with when they move from high street retailing to remote retailing. You never see the queue at the till; you never see somebody trying something on; you don’t wander around the shop and pick up a product to see how broad your range is. You just don’t get that so you have to work really hard at it.”

Robertson sympathized with the difficulties faced by traditional retailers but said standing still was not an option.

“Retail has a knack of surviving; we all need to buy things; so really it comes down to innovation, speed, quality of the skills available in the workplace and embracing change. If we don’t embrace the change, the other issue we are going to have is international retailers who look at us as easy prey if we’re not evolving quickly enough.”

Groupon expands with $1BN

Group buying website Groupon has raised almost $1bn (£641m) to invest in global expansion. The US business, which launched into the UK during 2010 as part of an international drive that has seen it widen its coverage from one to 35 countries, has won $950m (£609m) in investment from companies including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Maverick Capital, Silver Lake and Technology Crossover Ventures.

Groupon is known for harnessing the power of collective buying to negotiate deals with companies in local markets. During the last year it has increased its subscriber numbers by 2,500% from two million to more than 50m, and says it has saved them more than $1.5bn (£960m) along the way through daily deals that offer local consumers the ability to negotiate together a larger discount than each could get individually.

Thanks to the new funding the company will expand its reach further around the world, invest in technology and will also use some of the funding to give liquidity to employees and early investors wanting to realise their holdings in the company.

“We’re thrilled that Groupon has earned the confidence of some of the world’s most respected investment firms,” said Andrew Mason, Founder and Chief Executive of Groupon. “With their support, we will continue on our mission to change the way people shop locally and serve the world’s local businesses.”

The investment comes just a week after it emerged that Facebook had won $500m (£320m) investment from Goldman Sachs and a Russian investor that valued it at $50bn (£32bn) – and appears to signal a growing appetite for investment in internet technology that brings together online consumers.

82% more from multichannel

Multichannel shoppers spend 82% more in each transaction than those who only shop in store, finds research for business adviser Deloitte. The company revealed that multichannel customers buying in the clothing, home and electrical categories spend on average £116 per transaction compared to £64 for those who only buy instore. The researchers defined multichannel as consumers who use more than one channel, such as store, online, catalogue or contact centre before making a purchase.

Ian Geddes, UK Head of Retail at Deloitte, said: “The commercial imperative for retailers to tackle multi-channel and the incentive for getting it right is clear. The multi-channel consumer is particularly well informed about the products they buy and this greater confidence is resulting in a higher value and a higher volume of purchases.

The research found that 38% of all retail transactions across clothing, electrical and home sectors were now influenced by the internet. That breaks down as 21% bought directly online and 17% which are multichannel purchases.

In the electricals category, 62% of transactions were influenced by online, compared to 37% of homeware purchases and 26% of clothing transactions.

Multichannel electricals consumers spend £238 per transaction compared to £160 for those shopping in-store. Homeware customers spend £143 on average, compared to £83 in store, while in clothing, multichannel customers spend £65, compared to £52 in-store.

The research found that consumers from higher socioeconomic groups were more likely to be multichannel shoppers, with 33% of shoppers from groups A and B employing several channels compared to 22% of those from groups D and E.

Rich Media for Anthropologie

US fashion and lifestyle retailer Anthropologie has introduced rich media imaging and video on its UK website. It says that giving visitors the opportunity to examine its goods up close helps turn browsers into shoppers.

Michael Robinson, Head of Ecommerce for Anthropologie Europe, said: “Our aim is to achieve global consistency with our online customer experience. We’ve looked at what’s worked in the US and implemented that best practice here.

“Our products are highly detailed so we know that when customers are able to zoom in to closely inspect and ‘feel’ each item this has an impact on sales and reduces return rates.”

It also allows the company to use imagery created in the US and to serve it in the UK. This will also be used for future European website launches in French and German.

The company, a subsidiary of Urban Outfitters , is using technology from Adobe Scene7 to achieve this.

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