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Retailers consider London Underground’s click and collect potential

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The ecommerce profile of the London Underground network rose significantly this week. Asda announced it was to enable travellers to collect their online orders from six tube station car parks, while there are also suggestions that Amazon will use space vacated as ticket offices close down across the network as collection points, while others suggest the space will be used for collection lockers.

Asda says it is trialling a world-first service: customers will be able to order before noon and collect their Asda shopping by 4pm from, initially, East Finchley, Harrow and Wealdstone, High Barnet, Highgate, Stanmore and Epping.

The company hopes this will act as a mechanism to raise its profile in the London area. The Underground sites are among 1,000 new locations planned for its Click and Collect expansion. Last week Asda set out plans to expand access to its products from 53% of the UK population to 70% by 2018, and it says Click and Collect services will play a central role in that.

“Customers in the South East tell us that they want the prices and quality provided by Asda value but they can’t access it easily. This tie-up with TfL solves that,” Asda retail director, Mark Ibbotson said this week.

“We’ve led the way in Click and Collect by bringing Asda to where customers are rather than expecting them to come to us. From park and ride locations to business parks, now London Underground station car parks are another significant step on that journey.

“We believe customers will value the convenience of collecting shopping at their home tube station rather than carrying the products bought in premium convenience stores on their commute home.

“Same Day collection completely changes the notion of convenience for online customers and we are delighted to offer this service to Londoners.”

Asda says it may ultimately look to extend the scheme into other London and South East areas if successful, and that it’s also working on other click and collect formats in the capital.

Denise Oakley, international marketing director at supply chain specialist GXS, said the plans demonstrated “another level of innovation in multichannel strategy.”

She added: “Traditional brick and mortar retailers started with makeshift online fulfilment sections in their branches, but as online has grown more and more are opting for specialised, purpose-built locations to fulfil their online orders.

“Retailers must be able to support these new strategies with end-to-end integration in the extended supply chain if they are to manage the complexity of these different channels. They need to have one view of the entire process, or risk broken delivery promises and consumer disappointment.

“If implemented successfully, this trend will continue until online delivery becomes as fast and predictable as ordering a pizza from Dominos .”

Our view: London Underground sees many of the capital’s commuters during the course of a working day, so its car parks are an ideal location for picking up goods. There’ll be physical constraints to how much shopping a commuter can carry, and those who overburden themselves could end up cursing the service. But there’ll also be many travellers who drive to those stations as part of their commute, and for those services such as this could be very useful. We’ll be interested to see how it progresses, and whether the Asda brand has enough resonance in the area. This is certainly a relatively cheap way of testing that out.

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