According to a recent article, it was announced that Canadian Tire has dropped it’s e-commerce option altogether and has opted to allow web orders for store pickup only. Sears offers a similar model with its mobile Sears-2-Go channel - order by phone and pick-up at store via a drive through counter. Tesco Direct of the UK has been offering this service for quite some time, where consumers can purchase items online, shop at the store, and then finally pick-up items ordered online at time of checkout.

Does this sound familiar? For those of you from Canada, I am sure you all remember the retail giant,Consumer’s Distributing. It was basically a catalog store, where merchandise was selected from a catalog in the store, and then picked up at the counter. I am not sure if the U.S. had a similar concept? Please share any similar experiences you might have had with this retail format.

If you grew up in the 70’s in Canada, you remember the experience of rifling through a flimsy plastic catolog with poor pictures, brief descriptions, and a special code. If you wanted to purchase the item, you could not look at the product, pick it up, or touch it…nope, you took one of those stubby little pencils, jotted down the code on an order sheet, and then handed it to somebody behind the counter. That piece of paper disappeared to the back and sooner or later the product magically appeared at the front counter. I remember as a kid, not really comprehending what went on back there. Was there a massive store behind this little counter? Were there little robots or elves shuttling around finding your products? Whatever the mechanism, there was rarely a disappointment, as the product just suddenly popped out of the magic window! It was only at that point that you had an opportunity to look at the product more closely before making a final decision to buy or not. What an experience. Seems archaic, no?

Well, it looks as though we are going back to the future, with just one small twist. Gone are the flimsy catalogs and stubby little pencils, replaced by digital web-sites and mouse & keyboard. What a concept! In the comfort of your own home; browse pictures, videos, detailed product descriptions, customer reviews and then finally place your order online. Then go to a local store located nearby to pick it up, at your convenience. Once at the store, you will have the opportunity to look at the product before finalizing the purchase. Or maybe you will go through the store and select other items to purchase. This will dramatically reduce the number of returns, and takes away the hassle of having to be around at home to receive an order or to repack the item for return shipment. This model works well if you have a lot of locations with proximity to most of your customers. It’s a definite win-win.

I think this concept is going to catch on like crazy. It’s convenient, its a time saver, it reduces the costs of shipping and the hassles of returns. What do you think?