John Lewis is to introduce a standard £2 charge for click and collect orders under £30 from the end of July, saying the current free service is unsustainable.
The scheme – launched in 2008 – allows customers to order any item from the John Lewis website and have it delivered free of charge to their nearest John Lewis or Waitrose store or designated Collect Plus outlet.
But the logistics of despatching regular orders of small and inexpensive items such as individual lipsticks and even packs of loom bands have become overwhelming, the retailer said.
The John Lewis managing director, Andy Street, said: “We are sure customers will understand why we are doing this. There is a huge logistical operation behind this system and quite frankly it’s unsustainable. We consider ourselves to be leaders and we want to take the lead on this.”
With a likely backlash from John Lewis shoppers who will complain about the new charging system, Street insisted they would still have plenty of other delivery options from the retailer.
The announcement reflects the unprecedented growth of online shopping across the retail industry. John Lewis has invested significantly to support the growth and this year alone will be investing over £80m in its supply chain function and £100m in IT – the latter five times more than five years ago.
Today the department store processes over 6m click and collect orders a year, compared with 350,000 in its first year. At the heart of this is the operation of moving tens of thousands of parcels overnight, every night, from its huge Milton Keynes distribution centre to over 360 collection points across the country ready for customers to collect the following day. Its system was tested to the limit over Black Friday last year and in the runup to Christmas.
Mark Lewis, John Lewis’s online director, added: “John Lewis is committed to being a leading omni-channel retailer and understands the importance of providing its customers with choice, convenience and above all else a long-term commitment to customer service.”
He said the delivery option of choice for customer was its next-day click and collect, but “the change we have announced today will mean that the majority of orders will remain free of charge while allowing us to invest further in the expansion of click and collect to ensure it continues to delight customers as it grows in popularity”.
John Lewis is investing heavily in omnichannel shopping, where online shopping as a percentage of total trade has more than trebled over the past eight years (from 10% to 33%).
On Tuesday, Online retailer Amazon launched a one-hour delivery service, Prime Now, offering high-speed delivery on selected items to customers in east and central London. Customers, who must be Amazon Prime subscribers, can order goods to their home or office for delivery in the following hour for £6.99.
This article was written by Rebecca Smithers, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 1st July 2015 09.47 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010