Can eBay's click and collect service save the high street?

Online auction house eBay will allow customers to pick up goods from stores of one of the UK's largest high street retailers as part of a plan to make eBay goods available to collect at major stores worldwide.
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

Customers of the online auction site eBay will be able to pick up goods from stores of one of the UK's largest retailers — as part of a partnership model with brick and mortar stores eBay plans to roll out worldwide.

Goods from at least 50 eBay sellers will be available to collect at about 150 Argos stores across the UK as part of a trial programme.

eBay president Devin Wenig said that "online and offline shopping are starting to come together" and that the auction house's deal with Argos is the first of many partnerships that eBay hopes to make so shoppers can pick up eBay purchases from retail stores worldwide.

"Commentators have been predicting doom and gloom for the high street for years by while they've been doing that we've been forming partnerships with merchants big and small," he said.

Under the scheme, eBay merchants without physical premises of their own will be able to offer customers an option to pick up their goods at a nearby Argos store. eBay said the option will be enabled in the "coming weeks" and will run for a trial period.

A number of large UK high street retail chains have struggled in recent years with online sales blamed for eating into revenues at brick and mortar stores.

John Walden, managing director of Argos, said that flat wages in the UK had helped drive more people to shop online, and that retailers needed to find ways to offset the fixed costs of running stores in the face of "pressure" on retail sales.

The UK has 600 million square feet of retail space, but more than 100 million square feet of that is vacant, he said.

"As the digital world evolves the configuration of this space will have to change, particularly so it's more complementary to the online customer journey, rather than competing with it."

Part of Argos' digital strategy, he said, is to reposition the retailer around a model where most transactions are carried out online, and its other channels provide a supporting role.

eBay also announced today that all of its retail partners who offer a click and collect service via their own websites will be able to offer this service to their eBay customers before the end of this year.

eBay's Wenig also revealed it will launch its eBay Now service in London early next year, ahead of a European rollout. eBay Now allows shoppers to purchase items from local stores online and have them delivered to their location within an hour.

The scheme is already available in the US in cities such as San Francisco, New York and San Jose.

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