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M&S the latest retailer to catch the online-only trend

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In cyberspace there’s plenty of room to show off all your wares, even when your range is expanding beyond the constraints of any store. Hence the rise and rise of the online-only range.

Marks & Spencer announced this week that it is to launch its own online-only plus size range (pictured), finding space on the internet for clothing in sizes 20 to 28 that many stores do not stock because of lack of space – and lower demand.

The M&S announcement comes the week after Debenhams said it would be launching new online-only product ranges. It also follows in the footsteps of innovators such as Argos, which, it said in its half-year results earlier this month, now has 12,700 online-only product lines, augmenting the 22,000 available through its catalogue.

Another prime example of the move towards range extension is the print-to-order clothing company Spreadshirt which says it would need a shop the size of Holland to display all the products it offers for sale.

All of this makes for more choice for customers, and gives a relatively inexpensive way to broaden the number of less-popular goods a retailer sells.

Reserve and deliver to store services will complement this trend for multichannel retailers with the luxury of bricks and mortar space. Indeed, the new House of Fraser.com store unveiled last week does just this, combining online ordering with the in-store collection point, complete with changing facilities.

We predict there’s more of this to come. But it will be important for multichannel suppliers to keep their shops well-stocked at the same time. For what could be more frustrating than a trip to the shop only to find the unobscure item you wanted is simply not to be bought there?

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