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Ship-from-store: How Williams brought dark stores to light

Since the pandemic hit, savvy major retailers have converted their physical stores into dark stores in order to respond to online orders faster. Some successful examples include Woolworths, Coles, Kmart – and leading footwear brand, Williams.

Off the back of launching its dark stores last year, Williams also began offering ship-from-store – online orders are sent to the customer’s closest Williams store with the right stock, resulting in faster delivery times and more in-store stock turning over.

“I think customers really want us to be there with the right product at the right time when they want, like never before,” said Jay Munro, Munro Footwear Group CEO. “Whether they’re in lockdown or not, they still want to engage and interact with us, so things like ship-from-store are essential.”

According to e-commerce expert and Comestri CEO Frank Nesci, ship-from-store means that customers can enjoy a greater range of product availability online, particularly in footwear, where there’s often a limited range of colours and sizes in the warehouse, where e-commerce orders are typically fulfilled. 

By launching the ship-from-store strategy last year, Williams was able to remain profitable during a particularly turbulent 18 months. 

“For Williams, because of ship-from-store, they can sell stock quicker before it goes out of season and goes on promotion. From a business perspective, it’s a huge financial gain, because they’re making their inventory work more effectively,” Nesci added.

It also meant that during the peak of the pandemic, Williams was still able to keep its teams engaged and employed by working in dark stores.

“That’s one of the biggest benefits of running dark stores. We’ve been able to keep some of our team working, even when we’ve had to stand down so many people through these crazy times. We’ve been able to have them working and fulfilling customers’ needs and desires,” Munro said. 

Williams’ parent company Munro Footwear Group has long believed in the power of ship-from-store and all other brands in the footwear business already have dark stores, from Midas and Mountfords to Mathers and Cinori.

“Ten to 15 per cent of our orders at Williams are coming from dark stores, but in our other divisions, like Midas, it can be nearly 50 per cent, so there’s plenty of room for growth,” Munro reveals. 

“We’ve seen double-digit percentage growth in conversion and every time we roll ship-from-store further to more stores, we see continued options coming online and availability of sizes, so we’re getting more sales. So there’s two big wins.”

The right partner

However, Munro pointed out that a vital part of the launch was partnering with Comestri, which played a major role in ensuring that the technical side of the rollout was well-managed. 

“Retailers 100 per cent need to do ship-from-store. You have to utilise your inventory. From stock turnovers to improved conversion to increased sales, it’s a no-brainer, but you’ve got to choose the right partners. You need the right backend, the data flows and the right smarts that Comestri can provide to manage that, particularly if you have a multi-store environment,” Munro explained.

Comestri integrated Williams’ POS and ERP to help sell in-store inventory online and increase their available-to-sell inventory online.

“You need good integrators to help you marry all your ERP and associated systems up, from web platforms to stock and inventory to finance and logistic systems — you need to get all those systems and software talking together, and that’s what Comestri does really well,” said Munro.

See how Comestri can help you unify your inventory and enable omnichannel features to help your business grow. Contact the company today.