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The COVID-19 retail crisis sees online stores closing too

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

26 Mar 2020

Governments across the world have ordered the closure of non-essential stores during the COVID-19 crisis, but many online retailers are unable to fulfil orders with a lack of back-end support and staff.

Department store Fenwick announced this week it would close both its online and physical stores, the former due to being unable to pick online orders by hand.

A message on Fenwick’s website states: “We are a family owned business and we work a bit differently to some online retailers. We have tried to keep our online business running to serve you – but we don’t have huge warehouses and automated systems, instead a group of dedicated workers hand pick the items you purchase from one of our designated stores, carefully wrap and pack them, ready for delivery.”

UK-based footwear retailer Schuh also announced it would close its online operations “to ensure the safety of our teams and customers” in order to protect the health and safety of its staff across its head office and fulfilment centres.

According to Retail Week the company received conflicting advice from the Scottish and UK governments about how best to operate and protect staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

New policies for omnichannel

Elsewhere, many retailers have implemented new policies for omnichannel operations with 75 percent of retailers featured in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 100 stores posting a coronavirus-related message on their websites. These include companies such as Nike, Inditex, Selfridges, Kering, H&M, Zara and Ralph Lauren.

Amazon last week informed its Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) users that the service will now be limited to essential items due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Third-party sellers on the online marketplace which use Amazon’s shipping service to deliver goods will no longer be able to send them to Amazon’s fulfilment centres unless they fit into six categories deemed essential.

Amazon said in a statement: “We understand this is a change for our selling partners and appreciate their understanding as we temporarily prioritise these products for customers.”Last Monday the e-commerce giant said it is planning to hire 100,000 additional workers to support the increased demand during the pandemic.

Net-a-Porter closes U.S. delivery arm

On Wednesday luxury e-tailers Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter temporarily closed its U.S. shopping sites. A message on the flagship Net-a-Porter website states: “We’re making some temporary changes to our delivery routes. You can continue shopping on our international site.”

The company iterated customers will be charged in pounds instead of dollars, meaning import duties and taxes may be applicable, which could be a deterrent for some shoppers.

The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on global shipping, causing severe disruption across the industry. The strict containment measures imposed by governments around the world has resulted in substantially lower demand for the movement of goods.

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Pictures: Returnly Facebook, courtesy of Returnly

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