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High street retailers are losing up to £1bn of sales per month due to poor stock management, as customers leave stores downcast and empty handed as their item or size isn't available. 

While the high street is facing many difficult challenges, this is something that be solved relatively easily with the help of the internet. 

According to a YouGov survey commissioned by Venda, 38% of 2,043 respondents have left stores without making an intended purchase as the item they wanted was unavailable. 

So, let's look at how stores can address this problem, and save some of those lost sales...

First, the stats...

  • The report reveals that retailers are losing almost £1bn of potential in-store sales every month, and that this is primarily due to poor stock management.
  • 38% of consumers have left stores empty handed within the last month due to items being out of stock, or unavailable in the right size, colour or style. 
  • This equates to a loss of approximately £43 worth of sales every month for each adult in the UK.
  • More than a third (38%) of shoppers would  look for the products they wanted on a retailer’s website if they are not available in bricks and mortar stores.  
  • However, almost half of respondents (48%) said they would turn to competitor websites when they can’t find goods when out shopping.

How can retailers avoid these losses?

Improved stock management is an obvious answer, but there are limits to the quantity of stock that retailers can hold in store, so it's perhaps more useful to focus on what they can do when items are unavailable. 

42% of consumers confirmed they would still purchase the product from the retailer if a shop assistant was available to check the product availability in stores nearby. Additionally, 44 per cent of women would still make a purchase with the retailer if they had items unavailable in-store ordered on their behalf and delivered to an address of choice.

Order items for the customer

Stores should offer to order items for the customer via this website, with the option of collecting in store or home delivery.

42% of consumers confirmed they would still purchase the product from the retailer if a shop assistant was available to check the product availability in stores nearby.

Additionally, 44% of women would still make a purchase with the retailer if they had the out of stock items ordered on their behalf and delivered to an address of choice.

Refer customers to the website

Of course, not every customer will tell a sales assistant before they leave the store, so prompt them to check the website or contact a member of staff. 

Every high street retailer, no matter how small, should be online, even with the most basic website (or via eBay or Amazon Marketplace).

An ecommerce site or online presence, allows them to sell beyond their immediate area, and while the bricks and mortar store is closed. It also gives them an option when customers can't find what they want in store. 

A mobile site

Many people will check the website regardless, and often there and then on mobile, so an optimised site will be more convenient to use. 

Thus, the customer may be more likely to order the item online. 

Use in-store kiosks 

34% of respondents said they would use in-store kiosks to purchase items immediately and have them delivered at a date and time of their choice. 

Tesco has trialled these touchscreen kiosks in its stores and, though this kind of shiny new tech is likely to appeal to customers, an iPad, or conveniently placed PC will do the same job. 

Allow customers to check store stock online

Many people like to research online before buying in stores, and allowing them to check in-store stock will save them a wasted journey.

It may also prompt them to order for home delivery or in-store collection if unavailable. 

Not many retailers are doing this, but Argos is a good example: 

Graham Charlton

Published 19 September, 2013 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

Pete Williams

Pete Williams, Managing Director at Gibe Digital

Combining your e-commerce platform with one of the more affordable ERP systems such as Brightpearl can give you live information on stock numbers and allow you to respond quickly to low levels of stock.

As a customer I want to know if a product is out of stock before I purchase and would go elsewhere unless the retailer is willing to either discount a little to incentivise me to wait until they can specially order the product or give me an assurance that they will have it within say 3 days.

about 3 years ago

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Rebecca Price

Hi Graham,

A really interesting read, thank you.

Just going back to some of the stats that you referring to, the one about 38% of shoppers leaving empty handed ...

That's quite a number with all things considering.

But, I'm not all too surprised by it - the last 5 times that I went out shopping I couldn't get what I needed.

Earlier this year I needed a sun lounger for the back garden and every Argos store within 15 miles was out of stock for every model I searched for.

I understand anticipating demand can sometimes be tricky, but high street retailers are seriously missing out.

Thanks,
Rebecca.

about 3 years ago

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adam grannell

A great article. Thanks for sharing. Its such a shame the high street stores struggle. Why can't they be an extension of the Web like these supposed Amazon high street stores we heard about and allow customers to order stuff in store and pick up and pay in store. The tesco thing is a good example, at least they can surf through stock online.

about 3 years ago

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Kieron Townsend

This article really does show how 'The Cloud' and Software As A Service can make a difference to our high street and 'add value' to our customers' experience. Pete Williams already mentions Brightpearl that has come out of the brilliant and innovative city of Bristol.

There are other examples of this too, Shopify is a really good Ecommerce platform, Unleashed does stock management in an easy to understand process driven way, Vend can be used as the POS and also the instore kiosk and of course to see your financial reporting there is Xero* (*other cloud accounting options are available).

In the more mature cloud market place of New Zealand, retailers are doing away with the counter and having their employees focused away from hiding behind a desk.

This is now all available to any high street shop. Previously, the set up costs (lots of capital expenditure) was in the tens of thousands, a shop can get up and running for a couple of thousand (including hardware!)

All have API's and all talk to each other.

So:

"What do we want?"

"Real time reporting of stock, sales and financials"

"When do we want it?"

Its all available now.

Multiple shops, multiple channels, great customer experience. Retail just got easier.

about 3 years ago

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