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Ecommerce at The Warehouse: Big red e-sheds

The Warehouse’s website has an enormous number of SKUs on it, and it’s hugely popular with Kiwi consumers. Tell us about the back-end systems that enable the business to handle online shopping at this scale.

It’s really an extension of one of the group’s core competencies, which is its supply chain management. You are right that the scope of SKUs is a challenge for online fulfillment. However, our stores, distribution centres and our supply chain management is what has made The Warehouse a leader in its field. So while there are new challenges and things to learn, we are fortunate that many of the key building blocks are part of what we already do very well.  Another thing we know is that supporting over 800,000 Kiwis visiting our site each month requires not only good technology but great people, we have a lot of those already and as we grow we are always on the lookout for more great talent.

What’s the relationship between your stores and the website? We understand click and collect has been a big success. What are your expectations for its growth?

Yes, click and collect is going very well, it’s now well over 20 percent of online sales at The Warehouse and some weeks 30 percent; it’s a good example of our integrated approach and giving customer options. That’s what we mean when we say our digital approach is now embedded in the business, and why we have a goal of being New Zealand’s leading digital retailer.

Our retailers relate very closely to their websites and online stores as central to their offer. Teams in store use our websites to help customers, and online customers, I think, gain confidence from knowing there is a store network nationwide if they do have any issues or can’t find what they want. Each supports the other, and this is the benefit of a bricks and clicks approach.

Tell me about your personal preferences around ecommerce sites. Did these preferences change after The Warehouse’s ecommerce operation went live? How so?

I browse and shop on a range of different sites (I really like what Warby Parker in the US have done in extending a pure-play business into a bricks and clicks offering) as we’re constantly on the lookout for best practice around the world and look to translate that back to our business where appropriate.  

This story was originally published in NZ Retail magazine issue 739, August/September 2015.

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