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Stores trump warehouses for e-commerce fulfillment at Eclipse Stores
Since starting to sell online in August, the Canadian apparel retailer has shipped 94% of web orders from one of five stores, rather than its warehouses, an executive says. Shipping from stores keeps costs down by reducing the number of split shipments.
When apparel seller Eclipse Stores Inc., which operates 68 bricks-and-mortar stores across Canada, began selling online for the first time last August, it expected to fulfill most web orders from its warehouse, says Genevieve Bulgin, director of retail operations. Instead, the retailer is shipping 94% of its web orders from the five stores it set up to enable e-commerce fulfillment, she says.
“That’s been a bit different than what we anticipated,” Bulgin says. The stores, it turns out, are filling more orders because the retailer created a rule in its order management aimed at minimizing the number of split shipments, she says. Eclipse’s warehouse, which also fills store inventories, contains only in-season items, while the stores hold everything that’s on sale—new as well as older merchandise, Bulgin says. When a web shopper adds a sale item to her cart, the order is routed to ship from a store if possible, to avoid splitting the shipment.
Eclipse further reduced the number of split shipments by removing from its e-commerce assortment many of the “odds-and-ends products” left over around its stores, she says. “All our stores don’t have the same inventory, so we were at first getting many split shipments,” she says. Now stores reroute orders that they cannot fill entirely to other stores.
Eclipse was able to ship from stores immediately upon starting to sell online because the functionality came included in its order management software from OrderDynamics Corp., a subsidiary of eCommera Ltd., Bulgin says. The stores had to install the OrderDynamics software on their computers and set up an inventory feed to get started.
Eclipse ships from only five locations out of 68 for now because the rest of its stores have older point-of-sale registers that can’t handle the software, Bulgin says. The retailer isn’t planning to overhaul all that technology yet, she says, though e-commerce is growing every month. Today, Eclipse’s web sales account for roughly the amount of sales from one store, Bulgin says. “We’re continually adjusting processes and learning what’s happening,” she says. “It’s basically a whole new business compared to the point of sale—it’s figuring out how to both build customers and have efficient processes in the back end.”
In addition to supporting inventory and order management across stores and warehouses, OrderDynamic’s web-hosted software also includes a call center, bilingual support (Eclipse’s e-commerce site toggles between French and English), web site templates and various shipping functionalities, including a pre-integration with Canada Post Corp. “As a Canadian retailer, that was important to us,” Bulgin says. Eclipse ships all web orders via the national postal service, and about 20% of customers opt for their deliveries to be dropped off at a nearby Canada Post location rather than at their homes, she adds. While checking out online, customers can select a postal facility to receive their shipments.
OrderDynamics also allows Eclipse to offer a Find in Store tool on product pages for shoppers to see whether the item is in stock at a particular location. The retailer doesn’t yet allow buy online, pick up in store—it would first need to overhaul the rest of its store checkout registers to be able to run the OrderDynamics software—but it may in the future, Bulgin says. For now, customers are using the feature as a pre-shopping and customer service tool, she says.
Because Eclipse’s prior web site only provided information and did not enable consumers to purchase, the e-commerce web site template OrderDynamics provided was a selling point, Bulgin adds. “We streamlined it a lot because they had a lot of features we didn’t need—but it’s a lot easier to remove things than to design from scratch,” she says.
Eclipse spent more than $100,000 to implement the OrderDynamics platform and pays an undisclosed monthly fee for service, Bulgin says.
OrderDynamics’ parent company, eCommera Ltd., provides e-commerce platforms to nearly 130 retailers and brands across 29 countries, it says. Those clients include Asda, No. 14 in the 2012 Europe 500; Hamleys, No. 440; House of Fraser Stores Ltd., No 100; Jaeger, No. 413; Clarins; Coty; Fitflop; Matches Fashion; Space NK; and Brooks Brothers, No. 163 in the 2013 Top 500 Guide.