Woolworths online operation remains stable as catalogue falters



James Rogers

Woolworths' online operation has emerged unscathed from problems affecting the company's long-established catalogue orders...



James Rogers

Woolworths' online operation has emerged unscathed from problems affecting the company's long-established catalogue orders in the run-up to Christmas.

The retailer recently came under fire from BBC's Watchdog programme because of delivery problems with its catalogue operation, where orders are received by phone, fax, e-mail and letter.

Paul Worthington, e-commerce director at retail giant Kingfisher, which owns Woolworths commented, "Although all the goods get fulfiled from the same place there wasn't any impact on the Internet orders. The processes we have set up mean that we can keep control of the two issues separately."

In stark contrast to the 40-year old catalogue operation, Woolworths.co.uk only went live with a small range of products in December last year and was re-launched in October offering 25,000 products. The site now has some 30,000 products on offer for the festive season.

Woolworths.co.uk uses SAP for its warehouse system as well as the warehouse management facilities used for checking and picking goods. "From the evidence that we have seen, it appears that Woolworths.co.uk is a tremendous success," Worthington said. "Any problems that Woolworths as a company has experienced from a catalogue point of view have been resolved."

Kingfisher, which also has B&Q and Comet in its portfolio, is acknowledged as being one of the leaders in retail e-commerce, and announced earlier this year that it plans a 40-fold increase in online trade by 2004. The firm also believes that e-commerce will grow to account for 10% of group sales.

James Roper, chief executive of industry body Interactive Media in Retail Group, said, "Woolworths.co.uk is a very high profile area of development for Woolworths and they are totally committed to both a high level of service and matching customers' high expectations."

He added, "They are pulling out all the stops to make it work."

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