Covid-19 lessons from the Americans

You can call it ‘click & collect by car’ or contactless collection if you wish but it’s pretty much the same thing as what the Americans call curb-side collection and it is gaining some traction in the UK as a measure against Covid-19.

Whereas the traditional click & collect, involving pick-up in stores, was developed in the UK – with Argos the pioneer – it has been adopted around the world in various formats including kerb-side, which suits environments where there is plenty of space for parking cars and maybe an unwillingness for people to get out of them.

The idea is that you make contact with the retailer ahead of your arrival and when on-site the ordered items are simply dropped in your boot (or trunk as they would say in the US). Such services have also found favour in France.

It has not necessarily been a feature within the UK but with the arrival of Covid-19 it has been adopted by various retailers including the major DIY companies. Dixons Carphone has also been testing such a service within its Nordic business and will likely incorporate into its British operation when it is allowed to open stores here.

In addition, Morrison’s has just announced it is to offer what it calls click & collect pick-up from 280 stores from mid-June after a successful trial at six stores in March.

Kerb-side is not the only US import that is finding increased popularity within the UK amid Covid-19 as that quintessential American invention the drive-thru is arguably the perfect creation for transacting with minimal human interaction.

Although hospitality businesses are having a pretty tough time with the lockdown – and even any easing of restraints looks like giving them little respite for the foreseeable future – the one thing they have no problem with operating are drive-thrus.

It is as if they have been designed specifically with viruses in mind. It is therefore little surprise that the likes of KFC and McDonald’s as well as other fast food chains have opening schedules for many of their premises that incorporate drive-thru elements within the UK and other countries.

Unfortunately, I do not know of any retailers that have drive-thru formats as part of their portfolios. But they do have the ability to adopt kerb-side type services as part of their click & collect capabilities – especially if they have large out-of-town units and stores on retail parks.

It’s definitely time for retailers to get creative with their operations and consider such innovations as this type of proposition could well have a life way beyond simply being helpful during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider