The online fashion onslaught…multi-channeling is coming alive

It’d not even big news anymore: another international online retailer is reported to be planning to join the fray in Australia by launching a country-specific site here.

This time it’s Hobbs, last week it was River Island.

The point is, it’s another reminder that store-based Australian retailers must be looking to open up new channels to compete. Why? Try this from Roy Morgan’s new research piece: “For the first time, Australians who don’t buy something online in an average three month period are in the minority.” Russell Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) put it this way: “Any retailers that want to ensure a sustainable future for their business can’t afford to ignore the online channel anymore – it’s simply not an option.”

It’s significant that both Hobbs and River Island also sell via traditional stores (a couple of hundred stores apiece) …in other words they are multi-channel retailers in the act of international expansion. River Island is also reported to be planning physical store for Australia.

Recently another significant UK retailer with 250 stores, Primark opened up an online channel via pureplay fashion giant Asos.

If you’re seeing a pattern here, you’d be right: the physical stores are going online and the online stores are opening physical channels.

As one commentator wrote recently “I recently spoke to an audience of primarily pure play digital retailers at the Catalyst 2013 conference in Las Vegas. A key point of my presentation was to alert them to the fact that “Omni-channel means you too. It’s not only a strategy for traditional bricks retailers. Digital for digital’s sake no longer guarantees success.”

You could almost hear the communal intake of breath. One attendee who approached me after the presentation said, “My business model is all about a virtual shopping environment. And you’re now telling I have to give my shoppers other ways to experience the products? Oh, my.””

There’s a very clear strategy at work behind the push towards omni-channel retailing, and a template for success is rapidly emerging.