Briscoe bid to head off rivals

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 15:50 13/06/2014

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Briscoe Group is looking to join a string of retailers allowing their customers to buy goods remotely, and pick them up later, in a bid to combat online competition.

The homeware and sporting goods group says it is preparing to introduce "click and collect" to its online store.

"Everybody's probably looking at that," group chief executive Rod Duke said. "It's quite a popular concept.

"It also gets people into the stores, and I think at the same time, from a customer's point of view, it's easier for them to pick up rather than wait on delivery people."

Click and collect is regarded as a way of giving more flexibility to customers who could otherwise go to another local or overseas website.

It was "just another choice for customers", Duke said, particularly if they wanted to take advantage of a sale but could not get into a bricks and mortar store on the day.

Duke said that certain retail categories, particularly apparel, books and music, had been almost "destroyed" by overseas prices and products, but Briscoes was doing better than most.

"We've described our online business as equal to our very largest bricks and mortar [store]."

One reason, he said, was that New Zealanders tended to buy homeware locally. They wanted to see the colour of their dinner sets and buy appliances with compatible plugs.

The clothing and footwear side of the Rebel Sports stores faced more competition, but even there, Kiwi customers preferred to try on their shoes and clothing before they bought.

North American clothing sizes were often different, and overseas prices for top-line shoes like Nike and adidas were getting closer to New Zealand prices.

It was a good example of how overseas online experiences were often different from New Zealand's, Duke said.

"I just read recently that of the sales made in the US, 36 per cent are footwear," he said.

"Well, it's nowhere near that here, and I think about 40 per cent of [online] footwear sales made in the United States come back as returns.

"So you've really got to sit down and suck it and see what the answers are for New Zealand customers because they're very often quite different."

Virginia Wilkinson, a director of consultancy Coriolis, said click and collect was "certainly where retail is going" as stores faced up to the ease of online shopping with cheap delivery costs.

However, it involved smart inventory control and a good returns policy, so larger retailers were the best placed to adopt it.

Clothing and homeware company Ezibuy was an expert at online selling, she said, and children's clothing firm Pumpkin Patch and The Warehouse had adopted click and collect.

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However, supermarkets had a harder time with the system because of the shelf life of chilled goods and logistical costs, Wilkinson said.

Briscoe Group got an unprompted vote of confidence this week from sharemarket researcher Morningstar, which said the company's slightly overpriced shares were because of its "excellent job of growing sales and gaining market share".

Good management and store refurbishments had "dramatically improved store presentation", it said, and Briscoe's balance sheet was strong, putting it in a better position than most retailers to handle an economic shock.

- Stuff

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