Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shipping Costs and In-Store Pickup

In-store pickup for online orders is a growing practice. Higher shipping costs are part of the reason.

The last time I bought a computer, I ordered it online and picked it up at a store. In my specific case, the advantages of this approach were compelling. I could get almost all the selection of the online store (not all items were available for in-store pickup, but nearly all). I got the merchandise faster than if I had had it shipped directly to me. I paid nothing for shipping.

As the price of shipping goes up, in-store pickup is a way to get around it. The integrated retailers are shipping new stock to every store almost every day anyway, so it doesn’t add much to their shipping costs to add in a few more items. Similarly, customers can usually combine the trip to the store with other errands, resulting in a minimal transportation cost on that end too.

For all the things Circuit City did badly in its time, in-store pickup was an area where it excelled. Now retailers from Walmart to Barnes & Noble have adopted a similar approach. I believe in-store pick-up has the potential to expand to ten times what it is now as shipping costs continue to rise.