I read a fascinating article inthe New York Times the other day about inventory management and customer satsifaction by a fabulous American clothing and accessories retailer, Nordstrom. Those of you who have shopped at Nordstrom know that quality, customer service and inventory are obviously a company priority. The New York Times article described how Nordstrom has upgraded its web site and its on-line and in-store shopping experience. The company combined its on-line warehouse inventory with access to each of its individual store inventories. This now makes it more likely that a custormer will be able to get the item in the size and quantity he/she wants – fast. Nordstrom also added more search features on-line to allow customers to find what they are looking for and also suggest alternatives. Sales increased significantly, even in a difficult economy.
What a great idea to consider, I thought, for Estonian retailers who for obvious reasons often maintain very limited inventories. For larger, multinational chains in country, why not connect inventory data in Estonia with inventories of other company stores in Europe. For instance, Stockmann’s in Tallinn with Stockmann’s in Helsinki or Zara in Tallinn with Zara stores anywhere else in the EU? And then provide customers in Estonia the service of getting a wanted item to Estonia within a very short time (a day or two maximum) at minimal or no additional cost. I suspect the added cost absorbed by the retailer would be made up in increased sales.
Ok, you might say, that is fine for multi-national store chains, but what about Estonia-only single retailers? Seems in this case an Amazon-like arrangement might be an idea. The Estonian store would be a portal to retailers in other EU countries who have a certain product and would then facilitate the shipping and delivery /pick-up in Estonias. If that furniture store in Tallinn has only one beautiful arm chair, but you want three, your Tallinn store could get you the other two from Stockholm, for instance, on the next ferry. That way, I suspect, the reputation of Estonia as a country of excellent customer service, where any kind of product is available at a reasonable price quickly would help increase Estonia’s business bottom line. There may well be impediments in terms of sales rights specific to certain countries, shipping costs, competitive obstacles and more. But those mountains are simply there to be climbed and conquered, not to block the view.
But I am not a business expert and would not be offended if any of you would let me know that either all this already exists (I doubt it) or that this is a crazy idea (quite possible.)