Can Drive-Thrus Work for Department Stores?

Discussion
May 17, 2013

Starting in January 2014, Selfridges will apparently become the first department store to offer drive-thru pickup.

The London-based luxury chain’s drive-thru will allow customers to pull up to a reception area behind its Oxford Street location to collect purchases they’ve made online at Selfridges.com. Associates will bring the items straight to each car.

"There will be a dedicated area providing the level of service you would expect from Selfridges," Simon Forster, the company’s multi-channel director told The Evening Standard. "It will not just be the first drive-thru service, it will be the best."

The option will only be available at the London location. It has three other stores in Birmingham, Manchester Trafford and Manchester Exchange Square.

Adding the service builds on robust online growth for Selfridges since launching e-commerce in 2009. A new "click and collect" service was recently introduced that already accounts for between 10 and 15 percent of online sales. Customers picking up orders gain 30 minutes of free parking but still have to enter the store to pick them up.

Selfridges will also be rolling out a text message service to ensure deliveries to home addresses are made only when someone is there to receive them.

While a common sight at fast food chains and banks, drive-thrus have been popping up at some c-stores, drug stores and coffee chains. In the U.K., Tesco has reportedly rolled out drive-thru pickup at about 150 stores and Waitrose and Asda are also testing the service.

Is drive-thru pickup becoming a more critical complement to online buying? What do you think of drive-thrus for department stores?

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20 Comments on "Can Drive-Thrus Work for Department Stores?"

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Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

Maybe I’m becoming more cynical, but I see these kind of incremental changes essentially as shots in the dark to combat initiatives from large, successful online merchants. They seem to be best-guess anecdotal attempts to try and thwart moves made by companies that understand online customers better.

Sure drive-thru has some convenience if it’s executed well, but it doesn’t sound like it will be a strong driver of revenue or customer loyalty. And… as with so many hopeful ideas, if it doesn’t deliver and its level of service gets neglected, it may well become a thorn in customer’s sides.

David Livingston
Guest
4 years 5 months ago

I think same-day home delivery is already ahead of this concept.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

There are no barriers to a department store offering drive-thru services for smaller items. I don’t see any using the drive thru for larger items. Part of the issue will be to make the drive-thru pick up area reflect the same quality image as does the store itself.

I would assume it will require a reasonable volume to be practical. Having someone man the drive-thru if the throughput is low would seem to be a reasonably expensive undertaking. On the other hand, if it is not open all the time, is it convenient enough to make customer want to use it?

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

ANY format of retail can have a drive-through component, at least for a limited selection of popular products. Text ahead or place your order online, and then pick it up when you get to the store! How complicated does this have to be?! Department Stores, DIY; any store can do this.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Success depends upon whether consumers are on the go, near the location, and get through quickly. Otherwise home delivery may be more convenient.

Paul R. Schottmiller
Guest
Paul R. Schottmiller
4 years 5 months ago

The traditional brick and mortar retailers have been slow to get on board with the whole speed and convenience element of buy online and then pick-up.

Making customers wait several days, walk through the store, and/or wait in line with others at the customer service counter greatly reduces the attractiveness of this option for consumers. I believe this has restrained growth of this multichannel shopping option.

Self-serve lockers (in and out of the store), separate entrances, drive-thrus, and curbside pick-up are all great ways to make this option more attractive and unleash the potential of buy online and pick-up.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

This piggybacks off yesterday’s topic of same-day delivery service. It’s obvious that retailers are trying to find ways to service customers better/quicker/faster. The synergy between manufactures and retailers should also be as energetic to collaborate and find ways to offer the best products, minimize SKUs, and provide overall value to consumers.

Mark Price
BrainTrust

Drive-thru can be seen as an extension of same-day delivery for online orders. As more retailers capitalize on their brick-and-mortar infrastructure to provide same day deliveries to consumers, it makes sense to permit consumers to also pick up their own items at the store.

I do not look at it like drive-thru; in most cases, people will not be ordering at the window like fast food. Rather, drive thru is simply another option for consumers to have their online orders “their own way.”

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

What is becoming more critical is the retailers need to meet the expectations of their customer while providing perhaps a little extra for the loyal or higher purchased customer, period!

If the format supports drive thru, it’s truly convenient for the customer and the retailers has the resources to pull it off, then go for it. And yes, same day delivery, lockers in store, special pick up areas, these are all viable alternatives to consider.

David Schulz
Guest
David Schulz
4 years 5 months ago

Drive-through pickup is the antithesis of department store retailing. Convenience is one thing, but giving up the opportunity to seduce consumers with terrific displays of great merchandise can only be self-defeating. Department stores competing with retailers who can undercut them on price and provide the same “drive-through” convenience makes little to no sense.

Bernice Hurst
BrainTrust

Without going into all the reasons why this is a ridiculous proposal by Selfridges, my reaction to a more general discussion is – location, location, location. IF there is sufficient room for cars to wait in line while staff run and fetch AND if customers don’t get put off by the aforementioned potential wait time, perhaps it could work. Otherwise, not likely.

Paul Sikkema
Guest
Paul Sikkema
4 years 5 months ago

MyGofer (part of Sears Holdings) has had a drive-thru pickup area for over 4 years now. Customers can order online at mygofer.com, drive up to the pickup area and the items are brought right to their car. It has been so successful that many Kmarts now offer the myGofer service.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
4 years 5 months ago

We are in an era where many retailers are trying to get “one up” on competition by relying on hope and old processes, which I think drive-thrus are for the department store business. This is a “me too” program since any retailer can offer this. My instincts tell me that same-day home delivery is already ahead of the drive-thru curve.

Still, there is no medicine as powerful as hope, no incentive so great, and no libation or tonic so powerful as expectation that something someone else is doing is the panacea for their own problems or continuing success.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Drive-thru may have a future in department stores in general—or not—but this is probably the last store in the world I would have expected it from; the exclusion of the (more car-oriented) stores outside of London is particularly baffling.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
4 years 5 months ago

It’s another tool in the toolbox. Another service that some customers will like and use. And, if there is no charge, it will have that advantage over same-day delivery, which in most/many cases will come with a fee.

Janet Dorenkott
Guest
Janet Dorenkott
4 years 5 months ago

It could work. It depends on the items. I don’t see people using it to buy a pair of pants, but perhaps socks and other items that people would just pick up. But if they’re ordering it online beforehand, then why not? It’s just more convenient than what Walmart tried a while back, except you don’t have to get out of your car to pick up your order.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
4 years 5 months ago

It makes all the sense in the world. I would suggest that USA-based department stores outside of New York look at combining other services like dry cleaning along with order pick up. The dry cleaning could be offered as a perk with a pick up order. For instance a pick up order exceeding $50 would entitle the shopper to a 30% discount on cleaning. Let Amazon top that!

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

I agree that this is an exponential effort targeting an incremental (at best) sales lift.

And Steve is right—where do you cut off what can be picked up and what happens when a customer pulls up in a Le Car to collect a piece of furniture?

William Passodelis
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Well, It IS convenient, but I agree with David Livingston that same day-home delivery has it “all over” drive through. But in the end, offering any way to get the customer what they want, and purchased, seems to be the best solution—give the customer what they want.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Drive-thru is just another level of in-store pick up. If the system works and is convenient to the customer, then why not? It marries the online with “at store” versus “in store.”

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