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Caitlin covers social media, marketing and technology and is BRW's social media editor. She has worked as a journalist in Sydney, London and San Francisco, writing for titles including The Guardian and The Australian Financial Review.

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Big W to start selling clothing online

Published 05 July 2013 11:47, Updated 11 July 2013 00:45

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Big W to start selling clothing online

Big W managing director Julie Coates says there is strong consumer demand for apparel online

Budget retailer Big W is putting its clothing range online next month in a move expected to drive sales across the website.

Big W managing director Julie Coates told BRW the online apparel launch would happen alongside the launch of the summer season on August 2.

The discount department store, owned by Woolworths, has had an online shopping site since May 2010, mainly selling hard goods such as toys, outdoor furniture, electronics and DVDs.

“Customers love it and it’s a great site experience but what we know is that customers are keen for us to also have our apparel offer and we’ve needed to work through some systems issues in order to make that happen,” Coates says.

“We haven’t done it before so we don’t know what the uptake will be but we’re quite excited, not just for our apparel business but more broadly for our online business. We think it will increase customer visitation to the site and then potentially shopping across the offer.”

Two channels

Coates says customers that shop online and in store spend more money than those who shop in just one channel.

Selling apparel online requires a little more technical development because customers need to be able to select items by colour and size and there needs to be a good returns system in place.

Coates says Big W has been selective about what part of the apparel range to put online in order to keep fulfilment manageable and test things like the returns system. The retailer chose brands that would “resonate” best with customers and also that could be sold profitably through the channel.

The online range includes about 1000 styles with brands such as OneActive by Michelle Bridges activewear range, Bonds and Peter Morrissey.

ONEactive by Michelle Bridges fitness clothing to be sold online by Big W

Big W will dispatch orders within 48 hours. The site will not offer free shipping but delivery will start from as low as $4 and be carried out by Australia Post.

Customers can return items to any of the 178 stores across Australia as well as by post to the online store.

“It’s one of those things where it’s an advantage having bricks and mortar and online,” Coates says.

Woolworths database

Big W advertising on television and in catalogues always pushes the online offering as well as the store network. Coates says Big W also has access to the Woolworths Everyday Rewards database for targeted email campaigns.

Research and consulting manager at analyst firm Telsyte Sam Yip says apparel is an important part of the offer for the sector of the market in which Big W operates.

“Apparel across all mass merchants – Big W, Kmart and Target – is a very important part of the business and a lot of the time it’s the core category in catalogues,” Yip says.

“Big W attracts a certain consumer segment and having this category online will open up opportunities, especially for selling an essentials range like underwear, plain t-shirts and socks.”

Rival retailer Target already sells clothing online, but Kmart does not. Wesfarmers, which owns Target and Kmart, has asked all its businesses to come up with digital strategies this year.

Yip says profit margins would vary by product, depending on the contract with suppliers, but generally lower cost items like clothing made money from transaction volume rather than high margins.

He says Big W would achieve some savings by selling online because of the cost of putting and maintaining product on a shop floor and this might be passed on to consumers.

He was surprised by the delivery fee as he says free shipping has become a standard offer for pureplay online retailers.

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