“Mum! I need a World War II evacuee costume for Wednesday. Have you got me one?”
Such was the greeting from my 11 year old son as I staggered through my front door after a long commute home on Monday evening.
At once the distant memory of an email from my son’s school a few weeks previously came back to haunt me: Wednesday 20th April is World War II day and all Year 6 children need to come to school dressed as World War II evacuees, complete with a name tag.
Now where was I going to get hold of such a costume with less than 48 hours to go?
As I relaxed on my settee with a glass of wine later that evening – having just completed my purchase of my costume on Amazon using its Express Delivery service – I considered how online shopping and all the associated benefits on offer, help me navigate through my often chaotic life as a working mum with two school age kids.
Despite the urgency of my purchase, I used the customer reviews section on the Amazon website to ensure that I ordered the very best costume available, thus avoiding the possibility of ordering a costume made of poor fabric or even worse, too small for my 5 foot tall son! And I was safe in the knowledge that it would arrive in time for my son to wear to school on Wednesday. Phew! Another parental hurdle overcome by the skin of my teeth.
As many working mums out there know, time is a precious commodity for us all, and any technological advancement that can help make our lives easier is worth its weight in gold.
Take the weekly shop for example. I honestly can’t remember the last time I did a ‘big shop’ at my local Tesco Extra, even though it is less than a mile away from where I live. The thought of spending ages traipsing up and down 30-40 aisles in a desperate search for the grocery items I need, now fills me with horror.
Online supermarket shopping is a godsend to me – submitting my weekly order to Ocado to arrive at a time that suits me, without even having to step outside my front door. Who can argue with that? Top-up shops at my nearby Sainsbury’s Local and Tesco Express when we run out of necessities can be done on the way home from the school run, leaving me extra valuable time to spend on other activities with my family.
All of this actually means that I am spending much less time inside shops than I used to say 3 or 5 years ago. This is bad news for retailers as ‘browsing’ is what they like us shoppers to do – encouraging an impulse purchase or two through in-store promotions or other retail marketing tactics. But honestly – who has the time to actually browse in shops these days?
Seemingly I am not the only one who has changed their shopping habits over recent years. Tesco announced last week that it has started to return to profitability. According to the BBC News website, one of the reasons for the turn-around was the closure of 60 unprofitable ‘big box’ stores, in recognition of the fact that UK consumers now prefer to shop little and often at smaller convenience stores instead of doing a once-a-week shop. Sound familiar?
Retailers are having to offer additional services to get shoppers to come into their stores and also to compete with ‘pure’ online retailers such as Amazon. Take ‘click and collect’ for example. Increasingly retailers are offering this service for free to their customers, even though logistically it can be very challenging and expensive for them to run. John Lewis offers ‘click and collect’ not only at its own stores, but also at its chain of Waitrose stores. Why do they do this? Because they know if they can get shoppers to come into any of their stores to collect their orders, they stand a chance of encouraging an incremental purchase or two, often at full price and full margin.
The electronic retailer Maplin confirmed in January that 36% of its 2015 sales were from ‘click and collect’ transactions, underlining the idea that a ‘clicks and bricks’ strategy, i.e. offering ‘click and collect’ and also offering a chain of stores for shoppers to visit, is proving to be a successful way forward for retailers that operate in extremely competitive sectors, such as the electronics sector.
For me ‘click and collect’ has become part of my shopping repertoire, along with my Ocado weekly shop and my Express deliveries from Amazon. This is mainly as a result of too many wasteful trips to shops in search of items that then prove to be out of stock. A typical trip to M&S in search of new PJs for my children for example often proved fruitless, with the store seemingly offering every single size except the one that I was actually looking for. So frustrating!
So who knows what further advancements in online retailing will come my way in the future? All I know is that anything that helps me overcome the various hurdles I face each week as a working mum will be warmly welcomed!