Amazon is undeniably a retail juggernaut, possibly only rivaled by Wal-Mart in the sheer amount of “stuff” it ships out. Understandably, this is freaking out pretty much everybody who owns a chain of retail stores. Their solution? Use those stores as retail shipping hubs.
It’s pretty straightforward; instead of a fulfillment center several states away from you, they ship from the store closest to you, usually the same day. It’s cheaper and faster, for both sides of the transaction.
How popular is this? Well, Wal-Mart loves it:
We started ship-from-store as a test. It has exceeded every expectation we’ve had for it,” said Neil Ashe, head of Global eCommerce at Wal-Mart. “We will probably scale this to hundreds of stores.”
Already, 10% of the items ordered on Walmart.com are shipped from stores and the majority of those packages are delivered in two days or less, according to the company.
This is part of retail’s attempt to compete with Amazon, especially as, over the last four years, overpaying for commercial real estate is not quite the smart idea that it was back when these stores were growing. And they’re more than happy to try and screw Amazon in Washington.
The problem really comes down to fulfillment, and I don’t mean the empty feeling generated by mindless consumerism. I mean, can these stores top Amazon in terms of speed and quality of product? To be honest, part of the problem is always going to be selection and price; Amazon just doesn’t have the infrastructure to support that a big-box store does, and that’s going to be reflected in the price.
Similarly, considering the… unenthusiastic service many big-box stores are known for, you can’t help but wonder how that will extend to shipping. But, hey, at least if they’re going to go down, they’re going to go down swinging.
(image courtesy of barxtux on Flickr)