Chain reaction?

Poundland lorry

Will Poundland’s home delivery trial trigger a fresh wave of new entrants in the home delivery stakes, asks ParcelHero’s David Jinks?

The discount retailer Poundland is trialling online sales, which leaves only a few High Street chains holding out against the move online. It won’t be long before every UK store joins the e-commerce revolution.

The discount store chain has launched a trial home delivery service to 18,000 staff and selected guests, it recently announced. Poundland has been planning the service since last July and the real surprise is that it has resisted online sales for so long.

The retailer mothballed 120 stores last year due to the impact of Covid on High Street shopping. Its eventual recognition that combined in-store and online sales are essential now leaves Primark standing virtually alone as a major High Street chain whose website is still only a shop window. Primark has just reported its profits have collapsed by 90%.

The pandemic has taken its toll on our town centres and there’s no going back. Our latest research shows that 17,500 chain stores have closed forever since Covid hit the UK and 46% of shoppers told us they will never return to their former High Street spending habits. High Street pureplay retailers such as Poundland and B&M must join the revolution or be lost along the way.

Poundland has belatedly woken up and smelled its discounted coffee. Although the initial trial is low-key, it is taking e-commerce seriously and recently revealed it will be trialling a series of online models this year. This will include in-store click & collect, monetising its own website and using a shared marketplace to keep operating costs down.

For now, it is just a limited trial of 2,000 lines for staff and guests, including food and general merchandise. However, expect to see a far greater selection when the service is launched nationally; we believe that is likely to be within months.

Poundland has cleverly embraced the future of the High Street by turning to the “dark side” of retail, opening a so-called “dark store” to fulfil its e-commerce orders. It has closed one of its three stores in Cannock, in the West Midlands, and converted it into a dark store: a shop with staff but no shoppers, using it as an online fulfilment centre.

We believe the High Street store of tomorrow will have no customers, no stock on its shelves, or will have dedicated areas solely for robot pickers.