[The Argos/eBay click and collect deal] is not game changing.
If you think about it, etailers have delivered to residential and business premises since they came into existence, as their traditional mail order colleagues had done before them.
This is obviously a useful service for customers that may have had delivery problems in the past as it gives them a secure location for delivery, which they can then access during Argos store opening hours.
The independent channel has much to offer both brands and etailers with regard to click, collect and other related added value services.
Independents are represented at the local level throughout the UK giving the potential for unprecedented coverage and flexibility. Channel membership groups allow brands and etailers to reach out to their membership collectively with one central point of contact.
On 'retail as a service' and retailers doing more online in the future...
As a business we are very excited about the prospects for 2014 and see great opportunities for our members in the independent channel. Historically the independent sector has survived because of the level of service it has been able to offer to its customers, so it is well positioned for the coming year.
Brands that decide to go direct will still need bricks and mortar showrooms as part of their marketing strategies as prospective new customers will continue to want to touch, feel and try out new products before purchasing.
Showrooms can either be their own or operated as concessions in third party outlets. They can then take orders from their online stores and use whatever delivery options they wish, including collection points such as Argos stores and other providers of similar services. Third0party sellers that sign up will also be able to take advantage of such services where available at a cost.
On whether retailers will need to have a strong omnichannel strategy...
There is no question in my mind that successful national retailers need strong web/multi-channel offerings to allow them firstly to survive and then thrive in the evolving retail world. The key to their success will be getting the balance right and I see many more causalities yet to come.
Etail is not going away and everyone must accept this simple fact. The independent sector also needs to continue to evolve with the changing market to capitalise on the added value services they are able to provide.
I see the future of the independent sector in the PC/tech markets being one of delivering service to both consumer and business customers in their local neighbourhoods. Many will become local collection and drop-off points for the brands and etailers they partner with as well as offer additional services such as configuration, local delivery, installation, training, on-going support and repairs.
Independents that have resisted working specifically with etailers would be wise to remember the story of King Canute who showed his followers, by sitting on the beach, that even a king could not turn back the tide.
About the author
Iain Shaw is from dealer service group Brigantia