As retailers begin to ramp up their omni-channel efforts, Retail Category Consultants tested Canadian Tire’s “Pay & Pick Up” program, where customers shop Canadian Tire products online, and then pick up the merchandise at a local Canadian Tire store. On their website, two of the benefits Canadian Tire touts are “guaranteed product availability” and “pick it up in-store within a few hours”.
The Pay & Pick Up Ordering Experience
Our first attempt missed on both counts. When browsing online, products that are in-stock at your local store are denoted with a Pay & Pick Up icon. We ordered our item, received an e-mail confirming our order and notifying us to wait for our pick up e-mail. Four days after receiving this e-mail, we received another message notifying us that they were out of stock on the product and the order was cancelled.
Out-Of-Stock Item & Inventory Management Problems
When we were checking out, the item availability was quite low, so this appeared to be an indication of one of a few problems:
- Supply chain visibility is not accurate – perhaps the item availability shown was from 24 hours ago, and inventory was since depleted when the online order was placed.
- Canadian Tire has not placed minimum thresholds at which to not fulfil an online order at the risk of running out of stock.
- The inventory is not depleted in real-time once the online checkout is completed, protecting the stock.
Our second attempt was more seamless. Six and a half hours after placing our order, we received notification that the item was ready to pick up (at checkout, item availability was higher than on our first item).
In-Store Pick Up Experience
Upon arriving at the store, there was signage at the entrance directing customers to an order pick up point, and once in the store, the customer service desk was clearly marked with permanent signage that it was an order pick up point. We learned that merchandise is picked from the store shelves, not from the backroom; therefore, stock cannot be protected unless the product is picked the instant the order comes through to the store.
The fact that the first order took four days before we were even notified of the out-of-stock issue may be a staff training issue (that was clearly resolved on the second order). If stock is pulled from the shelves, it is unclear how it could have taken four days for the store to realize that they were out of stock. The experience with this first order demonstrates that Canadian Tire is not ready to use the Pay & Pick Up model for featured products (e.g. front page flyer items) – it could very easily lead to customer disappointment.
Omni-Channel Growing Pains
It’s evident that Canadian Tire has some ways to go before achieving omni-channel success. Omni-channel retailing is by definition a seamlessly integrated experience, where all of a retailer’s channels are inextricably linked. We did not see this with the Pay & Pick Up program. This effort is still a multi-channel approach.
What we experienced with Canadian Tire’s Pay & Pick Up are the types of growing pains that retailers will have to go through with click and collect models, particularly how to manage and protect inventory for online orders. As revenue begins to ramp up from click and collect, presumably retailers will develop better forecasting models over time, but our experience again clearly demonstrates that supply chain visibility is foundational to a successful omni-channel strategy.