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Interview with Wickes e-Commerce director Lee Faetz

Wickes eCommerce director Lee Faetz thinks the emergence of Black Friday in the UK is a good opportunity for retailers, but warns it could change the shopping habits of British consumers.

The last week in UK retail has been atypical, with a bigger than usual build-up to what for many years has solely been a US shopping event, Black Friday, and the consequent surge in online traffic as consumers sought cut-price deals as part of their early Christmas shopping.

It has led to John Lewis reporting a record week of trading, with £179.1 million in sales generated during the week to 29 November and Currys PC World announcing it was expecting its second biggest sales day of the year. The Dixons Carphone business even implemented a pre-planned virtual queuing system on its website as thousands of shoppers battled to secure deals.

Although much talk has been of the positive sales lifts experienced by some of the UK's largest retail businesses, there have also been cautionary tales of what this new annual discount day means for the wider industry in terms of making margin-erosive markdowns to meet consumer demand.

Wickes eCommerce Director Lee Faetz said the DIY retailer got involved in this year's Black Friday, and he told Essential Retail that there are positive and negative aspects of what he expects will become a firmly established annual event on the UK retail calendar.

"Last year's Black Friday was a case of dipping the toes in the water but the UK retailers that didn't participate really felt it was a missed opportunity," explained Faetz.

"It's definitely educating customers that there are deals to be had on the final Friday of the month in November. Will that change the shopping habits of consumers? Yes, I'm sure they will delay making purchases until that promotional period has gone.

"Customers will expect a deal but if they don't get one they'll be disappointed. On the flip side it is a really good avenue for a retailer, where there is a ton of traffic and huge amount of euphoria, where if you do have inventory you need to clear and you don't mind the impact on margin, then it can help push along the clearance lines."

Wickes ran a teaser campaign throughout the course of the week beginning 24 November and launched its deals, which spanned its whole range but had a particular focus on power tools, at midnight on Thursday.

This year's Black Friday has helped the DIY retailer build its Christmas campaign early, which is centred around a new gifting offering that includes selections of the power tool range and newly introduced electronic gift cards. Wickes does not see the traditional huge spikes in sales that the likes of fashion and electricals retailers do at Christmas, but it is clear that Black Friday has been used a momentum generator for raising awareness of its potential as a destination for people looking to purchase gifts.

Momentum in Wickes' overall online development is what Faetz is looking to sustain over the coming 12 months, as the business continues to develop its digital platforms.

The company rolled out a new online platform at the start of the year, having opted for hybris as an eCommerce partner. Faetz joined as eCommerce director at the end of July and is tasked with leading the online retailing evolution, which also recently saw the roll-out of click & collect for the first time.

The majority of the DIY retailer's outlets offer shoppers the chance to order online and pick up the product in-store, with a three-hour turnaround time available for those customers that need items quickly.

"It's been a key time for us – we want to embed a culture of test and learn," Faetz explained.

"Also, we want to focus on data and understand what's happening on our site and use this information to offer a much more enhanced experience and get ready for 2015."

Next year is expected to see further developments with Wickes' click & collect proposition, which the eCommerce director argues has already become "a really important part of the business", while there is also significant focus being placed on personalisation and ensuring relevancy when shoppers visit the company's website.

"We've got a very popular website and we're really pleased with how it's currently performing and we'll be looking at bringing a programme across the website where we offer the best user experience to our customers and make it as easy for them to achieve their goals when they visit, whether that is to make a purchase, find a retail store or to get some inspiration, ideas or help with a project."

Relevancy is a key word in Faetz's vocabulary at present, and he will look to use his experience of working at specialist footwear retailer FitFlop – where he looked after eCommerce for two years prior to taking his current role – to aid the development of Wickes' online proposition.

"We want to learn fast and be much more nimble in our ability to react and develop our website," he noted.

Faetz sees huge value in rich online media such as the use of multiple images, 360-degree views or video, but he will work hard to ensure the company is not "creating content for content's sake".

"We're a very busy department – we don't want to add pressure to the team if it is not relevant to our customers."

Source: http://www.essentialretail.com.

Read the full news article here.

05 December 2014

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