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Schuh: how to get on the fulfilment front foot

Schuh’s impatient customers expect speedy deliveries, lots of delivery options and mobile-friendly service. Chloe Rigby discusses how the company meets these demands, with Rob Bridle, the footwear retailer’s logistics director

Shoppers who go to Schuh for their trainers and shoes tend to be younger and are as comfortable buying online as they are in the store. So says Rob Bridle, logistics director at the British footwear retailer. These are shoppers who are very much at home browsing and placing an order from a mobile phone – 67% of Schuh’s online visits are from smartphones and 11% from tablets, with only 22% originating from the desktop environment. Half of the company’s ecommerce revenue (50%) and orders (54%) come via mobile phones, contrasting with the third of shoppers (33%) who order from desktop, accounting for 36% of revenue.

It’s been important for the company to design a delivery, collection and returns service that meets and exceeds these customers’ expectations. That will also be important when Schuh expands beyond its core UK and Ireland market by launching a German website this summer.

Fast and convenient delivery is part of the shopping experience that customers now expect. “Fashion, and particularly fashion footwear, tends to be an area where there can be a real feel-good factor, and a need to fulfil a desire, associated with making a purchase so customers are much more likely to want it quickly,” says Bridle. “I think our customers therefore expect to be able to have plenty of choice when it comes to delivery options.”

Currently, Schuh offers UK customers relatively fast standard delivery, at between one and three days. Customers ordering by 10pm can opt for next-day or nominated-day delivery, to collect their parcel from one of Schuh’s 130 stores – it expects to have 135 stores by year-end in January 2018 – or from parcel shops operated by UPS Access Point or CollectPlus. Purchases can be picked up from the store within an hour of placing the order, or delivered on the same day where the Shutl service is available.

Tracking orders

Customers can track a delivery, while the carrier predicts the time it will be delivered, and offers the ability to change the time and place of delivery while the parcel is on its way. Bridle says that on-time delivery is a key KPI for the retailer, which also uses live tracking to measure the time it takes to dispatch and deliver orders. A single view of stock means deliveries can be made using stock held in stores around the country, or in one of three distribution centres, two in Scotland and one in the West Midlands. Returns are free to those customers that sign up to the Schuh mailing list on checkout, or at a store.

Schuh’s biggest European market beyond the UK is Ireland, and the retailer has worked to offer a delivery, collection and returns service that is as close to that of the UK as possible. Currently the main differences are that it doesn’t offer a Sunday delivery service, and that the cut-off for next-day delivery is earlier, though that will be change over time.

Deliveries to countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) are currently made using standard delivery, taking between two and five days, which is free when shoppers spend more than €75. When Schuh launches its German language website this summer it will introduce next-day delivery in that market and subsequently to neighbouring countries. Shipping is currently from the UK but it will ship from its the three German stores it already has in that country, and if demand warrants it will add a small dedicated DC. From June onwards it will offer click and collect in Germany and to UPS Access Point shops in that country.

Refreshing the website

This summer will also see the release of a redesigned UK website, with a wider choice of click-and-collect options, including lockers and supermarkets. As a result, says Bridle, “[Customers will have] the freedom to collect anytime, 24 hours a day, or while doing their weekly supermarket shop. They’ll also be able to collect in their cars using a drive-through in some locations.” Schuh wants to widen the opportunities for same-day and next-day deliveries, taking the last order time for next-day delivery to midnight. Customers will also have more choice about how to return items.

One challenge here will be not to overcrowd the checkout and confuse customers. “We will be able to further improve our delivery offer by adding some extra choices for click and collect,” says Bridle, “but we’ll need to do this by bundling a package of options into a single checkout option.”

Looking to the future, it seems that customers will only expect more. “Over the past few years we’ve seen customers come to expect fast and free delivery, a range of convenient delivery choices, including weekends, communication about exactly where their order is, and they want the freedom to change their mind about the timing or location of delivery after placing an order,” says Bridle. “In the next five years I think we will see rising demand for same-day click and collect and same-day delivery, and returns, and it seems increasingly likely that customers will expect to pay very little, if anything, for these services.”

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