When the pandemic forced Dick’s Sporting Goods to close its hundreds of stores in March, the retailer hurried to set up curbside pick up within two days – its initial endeavour, though, was just this side of a children’s lemonade stand.
Lauren Hobart, president of Dick’s said that when you drove up, there was a sign in the window with a phone number, and people used the landline to call the stores and they delivered it out.
It was an extremely scrappy operation, with email and text alerts coming later on, but scrappy or not, curbside pick up’s not only saved Dick’s sales during the lockdown, but it also emerged as the retailers best strategy for long term survival in the e-commerce age.
What started as a coronavirus stop gap is likely to have an enduring influence on the way people shop, and the popularity of curbside pick up indicates that the future of retail isn’t just more package piling up on people’s doorsteps.
And beyond fulfilling the need for contactless shopping in the pandemic, it taps into American’s desire to drive to a store, a pull that can be just as strong as, or even stronger than, the convenience of home delivery.
Oliver Chen, a retail analyst at Cowen said that Americans are used to their cars and do like stores, so this kind of hybrid is the best of both worlds and as of August, about three-fourths of the top 50 store-based retailers in the United States offered curbside pickup, and according to Coresight Research, an advisory and research firm that specialises in retail and technology, anything from a sweater to a book is now easy to pick up as a sandwich.
Target said its curbside sales increased more than 700 per cent in the last quarter, while Best Buy reported almost $5 billion in online revenue in the second quarter, a company record, and said 41 per cent of that had come from curbside or in-store pickup.
The rise in curbside pickup, part of a larger wave in e-commerce sales, has implications for preserving retail jobs, though workers duties are likely to transform and it’s also helping to keep brick and mortar spaces relevant when thousands of storefronts have emptied, as more customers move online.
Curbside permits certain big-box retailers to transform their stores into mini e-commerce fulfilment centres while bypassing the money-losing step of shipping goods to homes and Mr Chen said that by driving to the store to pick up an online order, the customer takes the last mile.
There’s a lot of people that would choose curbside because it’s one of the few things that get people out of their homes, although online shopping benefits the sick, disabled and the elderly. Of course, curbside is more affordable than having it dispatched to your home or delivered by a third party company.
And getting out of the house for any reason, just to see the difference on people’s faces is wonderful, but there are people out there that loathe shopping and now buy everything online, including grocery shopping, particularly in NYC.