Why curbside pickup has been a win for both retailers and consumers

Meghan McCarty Carino Aug 26, 2021
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An employee delivers a curbside pickup order to a customer's vehicle at a California Best Buy store in November 2020. Curbside pickup has proven a win-win for customers and retailers during the pandemic. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Why curbside pickup has been a win for both retailers and consumers

Meghan McCarty Carino Aug 26, 2021
Heard on:
An employee delivers a curbside pickup order to a customer's vehicle at a California Best Buy store in November 2020. Curbside pickup has proven a win-win for customers and retailers during the pandemic. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
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We’ll get a sense of recent trends in consumer spending from the Commerce Department on Friday. But earlier this week, a couple of earnings reports from Dick’s Sporting Goods and Best Buy showed how the pandemic has been good for many retailers — by encouraging ways of shopping that can be more efficient, like ship-from-store or curbside pickup.

When Kristine Donley first decided to try curbside pick-up in the D.C. area during the pandemic, the idea felt to her a little … cringey. Like sending a personal shopper off to do her bidding while she waited in the car, looking at her phone.

“Geez, I hope I don’t come off like some privileged queen,” Donley said, laughing.

But before too long, Donley was using the service to pick up craft supplies at Michaels, Tupperware organizers from the Container Store. She even did a curbside return of shoes at Nordstrom.

“I am a person who does not like to shop in the store. And so, for me, it was a great option,” she said. Donley hopes stores will continue to offer it after the pandemic. There’s reason to think they will, said retail consultant Joel Rampoldt at AlixPartners.

“Curbside pickup is a great win because the retailer doesn’t have to deliver all the way to the consumer’s home,” he said.

Plus, it allows retailers to multitask with brick-and-mortar spaces and employees, said Chelsea Gross, an analyst with Gartner.

“It’s most efficient to leverage your physical stores,” she said. “They can actually manage both online orders from the fulfillment center, as well as the in-store shop with the kind of endless supply.”

The convenience for customers also makes curbside competitive with traditional e-commerce, according to Forrester analyst Sucharita Kodali.

“I think what they’ve discovered is that they’ve actually brought share back from companies like Amazon because the customer experience is actually delightful when, you know, you can just drive up to a store, they bring whatever you want out, you get it super fast,” Kodali said.

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