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As sales fall new report finds many department stores’ websites suffer from clunky integration and poor delivery choice

The prognosis for Britain’s much-loved department stores looks increasingly bleak. As M&S announces the closure of 100 stores, the impact of e-commerce squeezes ever harder. But today’s ONS retail results show department store’s own websites’ sales fell by 3.8% in April. The home delivery expert ParcelHero has rated their all-important websites to find out if multi-platform sales can save our favourite High Street names.

Today’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) retail figures revealed department stores’ website sales fell back by 3.8% in April. That’s not surprising given the results of a report into UK department stores and their websites released today. While some department stores’ websites offer just enough range and delivery options to hold their own against the likes of e-commerce giants Amazon and ASOS, many other well-known stores’ sites are falling far behind, reveals a new Study by the delivery experts ParcelHero.

ParcelHero’s new industry Study, Departing Department Stores, analyses the perilous state of the department store sector; and ranks the sites of many of the UK’s best-loved High Street names. ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, reveals: ‘While it was touch and go who took top honours, a worrying number of department stores scored significantly low marks – and several still only sell larger items through jarring ‘white label’ websites – a clunky relic of the last decade.’

Says David: ‘Marks & Spencer’s boss Steve Rowe might have criticised the speed and competitiveness of his website when announcing M&S’ annual results, but in some rare good news in a difficult week for the store, its site was the only department store to score all ten available points in our test. John Lewis was pipped to the post by just one point.’

Warns David: ‘‘In their battle against the impact of e-commerce M&S plans to close 100 stores by 2022, House of Fraser 30 and Debenhams 10; but simply closing stores won’t save our favourite names if their websites can’t compete. Fenwick scored just 2/10 points in our website ranking: unsurprising, as you cannot actually buy anything from it! The – albeit attractive – pages simply tell you what is available in its shops. For a chain of ten major stores, including Bentalls of Kingston, this is astonishing, though an e-commerce site is promised before the end of the year.’

Cautions David: ‘Another surprise is that, even today, House of Fraser (7/10) and Debenhams (7/10) don’t offer an integrated site for all purchases; In 2018 it should be as smooth to order a sofa as a shirt from a department store web site – with no noticeable transitions. Redirecting to a “White Label” site for white goods or furniture is a major drawback. Items such as Debenhams’ large electricals are on a ‘white label’ site operated by Buy it Direct (which formerly ran the old BHS’ electrical site), and House of Fraser dining tables and sofas switch to the A. Share & Sons site: A. Share is best known for its ScS branded stores. The join for both sites feels clunky and several purchasing and delivery options are entirely different. A far from seamless purchasing experience compared to buying large items from John Lewis and M&S’ sites.’

David notes: ‘Other stores’ delivery options really let them down, with no free deliveries until you have spent a sizeable £75 for Beales (6/10) who were also marked down for menu issues and lack of obvious click & collect online. That still beats no free deliveries at all quoted by Harvey Nichols (6/10), who charge a steep £6 for all orders and a hefty £10 for next day. With Amazon orders free for Prime Members and for items over £20 for non-members, Harvey Nic’s is in danger of disappointing its loyal customers.’

Concludes David ‘Returning to the top of the table, both John Lewis and M&S scored top marks for the range of products available on their site and ease of use, with the M&S site only fractionally slower. John Lewis missed out on equal full marks for deliveries by charging for click & collect items under £30. If you have a High Street store, surely you want to offer free click & collect to entice consumers back through your doors?’

You can find out the latest on your own favourite stores, and how their website held-up to the competition at: https://www.parcelhero.com/blog/news-updates/departing-department-stores