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Operations & logistics

Delivering joined-up logistics

Traders that meet demanding customer expectations stand out in the Operations & Logistics Dimension

Fast, free and convenient collection, delivery and returns are at the core of the fulfilment service that online and multichannel shoppers have now come to expect. It’s by meeting those exacting service expectations that retailers stand out in the Operations & Logistics Performance Dimension this year.

It’s notable that there’s little change at the top of the rankings this year, compared to last. Perhaps that’s because having gained an advantage through logistics processes that work, retailers are then more able to build on their success in the years that follow.

Perhaps for the retailers that do not offer these services, it’s harder, or takes more time, to build the logistics processes that are needed. Indeed, some have stepped back from offering faster delivery and collection services. That said, across the Top500, more retailers now have comprehensive delivery services than do not. This will shape shoppers’ expectations of the service they receive.

In other words, customers’ expectations have been met by increasingly premium and joined-up services, raising standards in an area that has become a real point of differentiation in a competitive market. But where once retailers stood apart when they offered the speedy services that customers aspired to, now it’s more noticeable when they don’t offer them.

RetailX researchers looked at retailers’ delivery, collection and returns promises for the 2019 edition of this research. As well as assessing the number and cost of the different options they offered, researchers also looked at how quickly Top500 retailers promised to deliver to the home or for collection, and at how easy they made it to return an unwanted item, and to gain a refund.

What the Top500 do: delivery

Top500 retailers offered an average of three delivery options. Standard delivery cost £3.88 and took five days on average.

More than half (58%) of retailers offered next-day delivery. That’s down by five percentage points from 63% last year. In most sectors, at least half of retailers offered next-day delivery within the UK. Notable exceptions were in the trade tools, garden and books categories. By contrast, fashion and clothing retailers were more likely to do so, especially those selling sports clothing (67% of these retailers offered next-day delivery) or footwear (65%).

The proportion of retailers offering same-day delivery stayed in line with last year, at 5%, while 16% offered nominated-day delivery, and 7% nominated-time delivery. Grocers were especially prominent in this area. Some 13% of Top500 retailers offered Sunday delivery.

Saturday delivery was steady, with 31% offering the service at the beginning of 2019, the same as last year. The median delivery cost stayed close to last year at £3.90, as did the threshold for free delivery (£40), and the standard delivery time frame (five days).

What the Top500 do: collection

Six in 10 (60%) Top500 retailers enabled their customers to collect a paid-for online order from a store, while a falling proportion – 6% – enabled them to reserve and collect, without paying.

Those who offered collection did so from an average of 623 stores, and a median of 59. The number of retailers offering next-day collection (23%) fell from last year according to analysis that tracked the change among retailers included in both the 2018 and the 2019 Top500. In 2018, 43% offered next-day collection and in 2019, 29% did so. In 2019, 11% of the Top500 offered same-day pick-up.

Contrasting those retailers that were included in the indexes both years, in 2018, 21% offered same day collection, and in 2019, 14% did so. In 2019, the average standard fee for collection was £1.31, although most made no charge: the median charge was zero, unchanged from the previous year.

Retailers enabled shoppers to collect their items in an average – and median – of three days, a figure that remained stable since last year. Just 1% of retailers offered shoppers the ability to collect their product from a locker that they own. That’s down from 2% last year.

A third (34%) of retailers enabled shoppers to see stock availability on their mobile website, while 18% enabled them to check if stock was available in-store.

What the Top500 do: returns

Top500 retailers enabled shoppers to return their unwanted online orders for an average of 35 days, although the median returns window stood at 27 days, down slightly from 28 days in 2018.

Most (88%) enabled returns of unwanted online returns through the post, while 48% supported returns to their store, 20% to a third-party returns point, and 16% via pick-up from the house.

The biggest year-on-year change was for those offering returns to a third-party point: of those retailers included in the 2018 and 2019 Top500, 26% offered this service in 2018, but only 21% in 2019.

Almost all (98%) promised to fully refund an unopened returned item in 2019, while 95% refunded the original shipping costs, and 22% offered pre-paid returns. Retailers took an average 11.9 days to process a refund.

What the leading retailers do

Argos and Tesco were among the few retailers that promised same-day delivery, reserve and collect as well as nominated time delivery.

New Look offered nominated day and time delivery, Sunday delivery and also had a store stock checker on its mobile website.’s comprehensive delivery promise included Sunday delivery, next-day collection and returns via pick-up from the house.

Sainsbury’s was among the minority of Top500 retailers that offered same-day delivery, nominated day and time delivery, and returns via drop-off at a third-party location.

Carphone Warehouse offered nominated day delivery and Sunday delivery alongside next-day collection, while it also had a store stock checker on its desktop and mobile website.
Screwfix offered same-day collect and Sunday delivery alongside a store stock checker.

The Perfume Shop was among the 11% of retailers that promised same-day collection, and the 29% that offered next-day collection. It also supported nominated time delivery and returns via drop-off at a third-party location.

Next’s broad delivery promise included same-day collection, same-day delivery as well as nominated time delivery. It also enabled shoppers to check stock from its mobile website.

American Golf offered reserve and collect, same-day collection, alongside nominated day and Sunday delivery.

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