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[8 comments]

Doddle takes a new click and collect concept to train stations

June 25, 2014

Click and collect just keeps getting easier. Train stations in the U.K. are now being transformed into collection points for online purchases, some with changing rooms where customers can try on purchases before confirming whether to keep them.

Doddle is described as "the UK's first fully dedicated, staffed, online shopping collection and returns service located in railway stations and major hubs." Travelex founder Lloyd Dorfman and Network Rail, owner of Britain's rail tracks and stations, are investing £24 million ($40 million) in the business to open in 300 stations across the country in the next three years, creating more than 3,000 jobs.

Founding partners include Asos, New Look and TM Lewin with an unlimited number of others expected to join soon. Doddle will be available to any and all retailers. Couriers and postal services can also participate, with the aim of maximizing customer convenience and minimizing business costs.

Following a trial in Milton Keynes, outlets in London (Waterloo and Cannon Street), Bromley South, Brighton and Chelmsford are due by late August. The size of the locations will range from 1,500 to 2,000 square meters with many, particularly those with high footfall, incorporating changing facilities. Doddle's outlets will be open seven days a week, offering shoppers fourteen days to return products purchased online. A website, text messages and e-mails will alert customers that their deliveries are ready for collection.

Staff will be available to deal with potential problems and to supervise returns. Sky News referred to research showing a rise of one-third of British consumers using click-and-collect services since last year with some saying simpler returns would encourage even greater usage.

As Doddle's widely quoted spokesperson explained, "The real benefit ... is that it is open to all retailers and parcel delivery companies, providing the only service where customers can combine multiple collections and returns at a time that suits them."

U.K. online shoppers are spoiled for choice with options for collection ranging from lockers to subway stations to independent stores. Anything from food to fashion, housewares and electrical goods can be ordered from home and picked up virtually any time, any place that is convenient. London Underground commuters have been able to place same-day orders for food collection from Asda, Waitrose and other supermarkets on their way home but Doddle is expanding the product range and retailers available.

Discussion Questions:

Do you see opportunities for train stations to become click and collect destinations for Americans? What challenges do you see around execution of a concept like Doddle's in the U.S.?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Are train stations likely to be a new click and collect locations for Americans?

Comments:

I have lived on the East Coast all my life, and I am familiar with the trains in Atlanta, DC, New York City and Boston, as well as the Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit. I have ridden on the El in Chicago too, and I do not think this concept would work in the U.S.

We are always in such a hurry and pressed for time, and travel great distances to get to work. I think we might pick up at the train station, but not have the time to try on our purchases. I know of people who take the LIRR every day and get on the train at Penn Station with only 30 seconds to spare. They and many others will shop online for free home delivery and free returns. I do not think it will even last in the UK, knowing some of the trains and the Tube I have taken there at rush hour.

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Frank Riso, Principal, Frank Riso Associates, LLC

The only limit to click and collect is one's imagination. Train stations and other commuter-type travel, as well as schools, gyms, churches, convenience stores, libraries, etc., could all be potential collection points. The keys are the convenience and ease of ordering and picking up.

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Richard J. George, Ph.D., Professor of Food Marketing, Haub School of Business, Saint Joseph's University

Interesting concept/idea here. I like the idea of letting the customer experience or try on the product. Sounds like the return policy is easy, which is important. I wonder what the cost of running the locations are, and if it drives additional sales and loyalty.

Bottom line is that retailers need to find ways to connect with their customers, be easy to do business with, create positive experiences, etc. Where else can this concept be found? Gas stations? Airline terminals? Grocery stores? I'm looking forward to seeing how, or if, this works.

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Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

Trying on clothes in a train station? Really? I think U.K. stations are more appealing than U.S. stations, and well-located in the communities, but it bothers me personally to mix the metaphor of the shopping experience with other than a retail outlet in a retail milieu. Some commuters, or non-commuters (i.e., those who live in the neighborhood or are not in a hurry) may find this appealing, but I don't.

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Naomi K. Shapiro, Strategic Market Communications, Upstream Commerce

UK consumers already are firmly entrenched in a click and collect world, where online orders can be picked up within hours, not days. This didn't happen overnight and partially can be attributed to the very different geography of the UK. Doddle seems to be a very natural progression and will help UK retailers like ASOS further use fulfillment as a key differentiator. The US, however, is not there yet. For the most part, we are a car-dependent nation and that is only beginning to see the potential in click and collect. The Doddle model could work in a few metro areas, but the mere thought of trying clothes on in a train station is about as appealing as trying them on in a Walmart Supercenter. The ick factor trumps instant gratification in this instance.

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Kelly Tackett, Research Director, Planet Retail

I don't see this as ready for prime time in the US quite yet. Major cities where trains are a way of life, maybe.

The concept sounds solid, though, providing we find the right locations that fit our lifestyle. Right now, why not just try on at home and call FedEx for pick up?

Just saying...for my 2 cents!

Lee Kent, Let's meet share and succeed in Retail, YourRetailAuthority

That's how Mail Boxes Etc got started: identify a need for shipping and office printing and focus on high traffic business area. With a concept like Doddle, the limit is the rent costs which can be quite high in mass transit hubs like certain train stations. I think one of the possibilities for that to work well in the US is that riders can do pickup without exiting the fare gate. That way you can still get the pickup items done in a station and not get charged for an extra fare.

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Kenneth Leung, Director of Enterprise Industry Marketing, Avaya

It is important to note that this is simply an expedited physical location as a morph between a click-and-mortar and brick-and-mortar shopping experience. Retailers here in the USA have both UPS and FedEx pick up returns from your doorstep (or at their thousands of affiliated drop-off stores), and this has been a proven return point for years. However, the ability to address customer issues in just one more way is also important to note....

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Kai Clarke, CEO, American Retail Consultants

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