Fashion chain Aurora operates the Oasis, Warehouse and Coast brands and just might be the most multi-channel thinking retail business in the UK.
Many businesses suffer from internal battles being fought between their various channels as they argue over the internet cannibalising store sales, which ultimately kills off innovation and progress.
But at Aurora there has clearly been sufficient conviction and support from its top executives to ensure that its move to a seamless multi-channel operation is truly happening.
From the chairman Derek Lovelock and chief executive Mike Shearwood down there is belief in multi-channel. Some of the early foundations were laid by another multi-channel advocate John Bovill, the former Aurora IT director.
Its internal structure highlights how its thinking is strongly geared towards integrating all its channels. It must be the first retailer to appoint a omnichannel director – Ish Patel – who is responsible for IT distribution and the multi-channel technical team. And the former multi-channel director Hash Ladha moves up to the role of deputy managing director at Oasis where he will undoubtedly spread his evangelistic views on multi-channel.
Another such example of Aurora appointing digital-savvy individuals into broad roles is the bagging of former French Connection director of e-commerce and digital marketing Jennifer Roebuck into the marketing director’s position.
Such moves have been crucial to the business developing a model that now incorporates some of the most forward-thinking multi-channel initiatives in the UK.
For instance, it last year opened an Oasis store in London that has thrown out most of the fixed tills and replaced them with iPads that are taken around the store by the shop assistants.
Goods can be ordered from them and delivered to customers’ homes or into the store for future collection. The delivery options are also cutting edge as they include 90-minute delivery (provided by Shutl).
But most interesting is its new stock management system that allows goods ordered online to be fulfilled from either the central distribution depot or directly from the group’s shops. This is cutting edge stuff and takes the business to the holy grail of multi-channel – a single view of stock.
Early signs of this benefiting the business came from a trial involving 60 stores that helped boost online sales over the festive period by 20% – equating to £1.2 million. Expect this to make an even bigger impact in the future.
It played its part in Aurora delivering an impressive 13% increase in like-for-like sales over Christmas, which sets its apart from the rest of the pack – just like its multi-channel thinking is differentiating it from the many also-rans in the retail sector.
If it isn’t the most multi-channel thinking retailer in the UK then just who is?