THE internet revolution has brought a massive boost for a shopping centre in North Wales.
While many predicted that online sales would sound the death knell of traditional bricks and mortar shopping, major stores at the Eagles Meadow in Wrexham say their sales have been given a healthy shot in the arm by Click and Collect.
Retailers say more and more customers order online and picking up their purchases in store, often the next day.
Andy Smethurst, operations manager of the big Debenhams store, revealed that their Click and Collect operation had grown by as much as 20 per cent in just the past year.
Store bosses said that new lower parking fees announced at Eagles Meadow to widespread acclaim late last year were also making it easier for people to collect their internet purchases. And centre bosses confirmed that the number of car parking was up by 30 per cent.
Andy Smethurst said: “We set up our Click and Collect facility a few years ago and it’s increasing in popularity to the point where it went up by 20 per cent last year.
“People order online and, with most things, they can pick their purchase from a dedicated area in store the next day, free of charge.
“If we’ve got the item in stock at the store we can set it aside ready for collection and if we don’t have it we can have it sent from another of our centres by 10am next day.
“People like Click and Collect because they don’t have to wait in at home while a courier service delivers their goods at home or drops them off with a neighbour.
“They can collect at their own convenience and it only takes a few minutes for them to come into the store, either during the day or after work, especially on our late night shopping evenings.
“Another bonus for us is that when they come in to collect their purchase people have a look around the store and buy other things.
“The cheaper parking introduced at Eagles Meadow just before Christmas has also helped to boost our Click and Collect service.”
Emma Pashley, manager of the Topman store, reckons as many as 70 per cent of people who come in to collect items bought online make further purchases when they call in store.
She said: “Topman and our sister store Topshop introduced Click and Collect just over two years ago and it’s gone from strength to strength.
“People order items in the comfort of their own home and then don’t have to wait around at home for it to be delivered, which is difficult if you’re out at work all day.
“It’s increased in popularity quite a bit since we started it and usage of the service peaks just before Christmas and during the holiday season when people are getting their new summer clothes together.
“There are quite a lot people who take a look around the store and see other things they like when they come in to pick up their purchases. In fact, I’d say that 70 per cent of people buy something extra in that way.
“Click and Collect has been a real boost for us as it’s bringing more people into our store and increasing the centre’s footfall generally.”
Ann Littler, manager of the Wallis clothes store, said: “We’ve definitely seen our Click and Collect service get more popular since we started it a couple of years ago.
“We have one main delivery of goods bought online each week and it’s now usually three big sacks full of items.
“We’ve also got a computer terminal in store with which people can order online if we don’t happen to have the size or colour they want. These items can also be delivered on a Click and Collect basis.
“By getting people into the store in this way we’re also seeing them buy other things, which has been good for our business and the footfall of the whole shopping centre.
“It’s just another customer service that you must have if you want to have a successful business in this day and age.”
Eagles Meadow centre manager Kevin Critchley said: “It’s the case these days that most bricks and mortar retailers are also internet retailers, so offering Click and Collect makes obvious sense.
“It’s advantageous in that it not only brings more people into the shopping centre when they pick up their purchases but also means that retailers with limited floor space can offer a much wider range of stock from their online collection.
“Of course, the popularity of Click and Collect at Eagles Meadow has been helped tremendously by our new car parking rates, which were drastically reduced by between 55 per cent and 38 per cent last winter.
“Our latest figures show that the number of car parking tickets sold at Eagles Meadow in February was 30 per cent up on the same period the previous year, which shows clearly that the reduced charges are attracting more people to shop at the centre.
“Among the changes is a new one hour rate of £1 for people who just need to pop by for a quick visit, and that makes it far cheaper to leave your vehicle while you collect your purchases than it would have been this time last year.
“The two hour rate has been cut from £3.10 to £1.50 while the three hour charge is down from £4.49 to £2, with a reduction in the four hour fee from £5.60 to £3.50.
“The evening rate has also been reduced from £2.50 to £1.50 for people going to the cinema, tenpin bowling or to eat at one of the centre’s restaurants.
“The change came about because the lease held by car park operators Vinci was terminated by mutual agreement and taken over by multi-national car park specialists Secure Parking UK who have more than a million car parking spaces in 11 countries world-wide.”
For more information about the Click and Collect services available at Eagles Meadow go to http://www.eagles-meadow.co.uk/eat-shop-play/click-collect.html