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Merchandising is ‘vital to online retail too’

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Traditional retail skills such as merchandising and customer service are just as vital to online businesses as they are to companies with bricks and mortar stores, according to two of the retail industry’s biggest names.

CEO of online fashion house Asos.com Nick Robertson and CEO of multichannel retailer Shop Direct Group Mark Newton-Jones both admitted that they have been able to move their businesses forward in new markets by using tried and tested formulas.

Robertson said: “I think the reason we’ve been able to grow as quickly as we have is because a lot of the skills we have at Asos are just good, traditional retail skills.

“We have a very big buying and merchandising team and all those buyers and merchandisers have come from high street stores.

“The good news for us is that we have been able to grow because a lot of the skills already exist out there.”

Commenting on customer service, Newton-Jones added: “This is really difficult and it’s one of the things people struggle with when they move from high street retailing to remote retailing.

“You never see the queue at the till; you never see somebody trying something on; you don’t wander around the shop and pick up a product to see how broad your range is - you just don’t get that so you have to work really hard at it.”

The pair were speaking at the Skillsmart Retail Parliamentary reception, which was held at the House of Commons in central London last week. The event follows a successful few years for both businesses.

Asos has grown to become the leading online fashion retailer in the UK with sales rising by 50 per cent in the first half of its financial year, while Littlewoods, Very.co.uk and Woolworths.co.uk owner Shop Direct Group reported turnover of £1.7 billion during 2009/10.

Together they contribute to an online retail industry that IMRG and Capgemini estimate will be worth a total of £57.8 billion this year.

Published on Tuesday 07 December by Editorial Assistant

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