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Keeping The Delivery Promise

Retailers that offer fast and flexible delivery, collection and returns come in ahead of the competition

FLEXIBLE AND SPEEDY delivery promises help retailers to stand apart from the rest in the IRUK Top500 Operations & Logistics Performance Dimension. When the promise is allied to convenient collection and easy returns, they lead the pack.

The Dimension listing was developed through an in-depth analysis of the fulfilment promise that Top500 retailers make to their customers. This year, researchers measured performance against new metrics that reflect the increasing speed, efficiency and responsiveness of logistics across the sector. In 2017, the analysis measured whether a retailer offered click-and-collect. For this year, researchers investigated whether retailers offer same-day or next-day collection, and how widely the service is offered through the retailer’s store network, or even beyond. They also counted whether a retailer offers check and reserve alongside the click-and-collect options, as well as how easily a shopper can check stock from a smartphone or other mobile device.


Almost two-thirds (62%) of Top500 retailers offer collection – up from 59% in 2017 – with 44% offering next-day collection and 22% offering same-day pick up. Where retailers offer click-and-collect services, they do so from a median of 50 stores. Just over a fifth (22%) offer same-day collection, while 14% offer reserve and collect. Traders promise to have orders ready to collect in a median of three days. The average cost of collection is 83p but the median is zero, revealing that the majority of Top500 retailers do not charge shoppers to collect their online orders.

Over the last year, delivery appears to have become slightly less flexible, although it costs less as well. Standard delivery now takes a median of four business days and costs a median £3.95 – a 21% reduction from £4.97 last year. Those that offer free delivery for shoppers spending a certain amount put that threshold at a median of £40, down by 20% from £49.70 last year. Retailers offer a median of three delivery options. More than half (59%) offer next-day delivery, 28% offer Saturday delivery, followed by nominated day (15%) and time (5%), and same-day delivery (4%). Last year, 6% of retailers offered same-day delivery, 32% offered Saturday delivery and 65% offered next-day delivery: slightly fewer retailers offer these services this year compared to last year. More than a tenth (11%) of the Top500 offer Sunday delivery.

Looking at returns, Top500 retailers accept returns in a median of 28 days and process them in a median of 10 days, unchanged from last year. More than three-quarters (79%) offer return via post, up from 74% last time, followed by return to store (46%), via drop-off at a third party location (26%, from 25% last time) and pick-up from the house (18%). Some 31% offer pre-paid returns – up from 13% last year, and a rise of 18 percentage points. 22% refund the cost of the return. Just over a third (34%) of Top500 retailers reveal on their website whether a product is in stock while 20% of multichannel retailers show if the product is available at stores.


Tesco stands out for the speed of its collection and the flexibility of its delivery service. Shoppers can collect their online orders from its in-store lockers, while orders can be delivered or collected as swiftly as the same day. Tesco is one of just 1.3% of retailers to have their own lockers and the supermarket is one of a small minority to offer nominated time delivery.

Fellow supermarket Sainsbury’s also stands out in this Dimension for a flexible delivery offer that includes same-day, nominated time and Sunday options. It is one of the 23% of retailers with iOS apps that has extra stock checking features on its mobile app. Marks & Spencer earns its place for a generous returns policy that includes drop-off at a third-party location and promises to refund the cost of the return, among other things. It has a large number of stores that offer collection and its mobile app offers extra stock checking features. Fortnum & Mason rounds off a strong showing for grocers, food and drink retailers, with a promise that includes Sunday and nominated day delivery, as well as picking up a return from the house and refunding the cost of returns.

Fashion retailer New Look has a flexible delivery offer that enables shoppers to name their time and day of delivery and also includes Sunday delivery. Shoppers can return an item through drop-off at a third party location. Builders merchant Screwfix offers same-day collection and Sunday delivery. It also enables customers to check store stock from the mobile app and to make a return via a pick-up from a private address.

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