For over 30 years, Matalan has been on a mission to provide outstanding quality and value for modern families. As one of the leading omni-channel retailers in the UK, they operate over 200 retail locations spread across the UK, Europe, and the Middle East. The fastest growing sector of their business now, however, is ecommerce.
When Matalan initially brought on SHIFT Commerce, a digital retail platform, to help tailor and optimise their marketplace strategy in 2017, they knew the future of retail was online and that they needed to become a more agile ecommerce brand. Based on their brand awareness and physical retail presence, Matalan also knew they needed to build their online store on a platform that could handle high volumes and still have room to scale.
The SHIFT Commerce platform is predominantly API driven, which makes it easy for merchants to plug and play third-party integrations seamlessly into the backend — including ShipStation. A platform with this flexibility is often referred to as headless commerce.
In a matter of a couple years, SHIFT Commerce enabled Matalan to adapt to the digital market, grow a strong online presence, and open and staff a distribution center solely for ecommerce orders. However, as COVID-19 was beginning to cause global shutdowns, Matalan knew they would need to adapt yet again.
Once news of COVID-19 started to spread in early 2020, the Matalan team met with SHIFT to discuss opportunities for encouraging in-person shoppers to buy online.
After a meeting of the minds, they decided to experiment with a fulfil-from-store distribution model.
Emma Sutton, Operations Director of SHIFT Commerce recalls the brainstorm with Matalan as “We’ve got the stores, we’ve got the staff. Let’s get them picking orders,” she said.
With hundreds of retail locations spread across Great Britain, the concept of converting empty retail stores into mini distribution centers was a no-brainer. As a budget retailer, margins are key to Matalan’s business success. With this new process, they would not only save money on postage by shipping parcels from the closest retail location, but they were also able to capitalize on selling the inventory already stocked in-store.
“Having flexibility and being agile was really important for Matalan. Since coming on board, their online revenues have grown by 77%, organic traffic has risen by over 30% and conversion rates continue to climb.”Emma Sutton
Operations Director, SHIFT Commerce
The only problem? They needed a shipping software solution that would support shipments through multiple carriers, allow them to fulfil orders from multiple locations, and seamlessly communicate with their existing platforms.
Given that Matalan already managed their inventory through SHIFT Commerce’s order management system, implementing this fulfilment process was relatively easy and hands-off for Matalan’s development teams. By coding an order router within SHIFT Commerce, Matalan can now cross-reference inventory across all stores in real-time and route orders as necessary for the most efficient shipping option.
By setting up each independent store as a user account in ShipStation, Matalan was able to funnel only relevant orders to quickly onboard their existing employees. Users can see the orders, can go around the store, pick them, print the labels directly from ShipStation, and then Hermes picks them up from the store for distribution.
“The selling point with ShipStation is obviously you have the APIs available, so, it makes it easy to integrate with our platform,” said Sutton. “We all agreed this was the quickest and easiest way to get Matalan rolling with a fulfil-from-store program.”
After a couple test runs at their store in Leeds, a few chats with the local UK ShipStation support team to set up workflow automations, and creating internal process documentation, the Matalan teams felt confident enough in the software to start shipping out orders.
“There doesn’t have to be extensive training. ShipStation is quite an easy interface,” said Sutton. “In a matter of a few months, they were up and running.”
Because the systems are continuously talking to each other through API calls and responses, there is very little manual intervention required by Matalan’s fulfilment team. Even simply printing the label through ShipStation triggers a dispatch email to the customer so that the customer knows their order’s on the way or that that’s ready to pick up at the store.
Since integrating with ShipStation through SHIFT Commerce, Matalan has shipped over a million orders, and millions of Pounds in product from their individual retail stores.
Quick action and innovation from both the SHIFT Commerce and Matalan operations teams meant that within a few months into the pandemic, Matalan stores and staff were set up to pick, pack, and fulfil online orders directly from the ShipStation mobile app.
“About 40 to 50% of Matalan’s online orders are coming through ShipStation to stores right now. It’s phenomenal. It’s really helped them ramp up their online capacity.”Emma Sutton
Operations Director, SHIFT Commerce
And there’s no plans to slow down their ecommerce growth, despite retail shops opening back up. With the help of SHIFT Commerce, Matalan has been able to embrace the ever changing landscape of retail. And, given its success the past year, plans to continue and build on their fulfil-from-store distribution model.
“It’s just what makes this partnership and this solution so important and so valuable. Because, it’s really allowed them to weather the storm, so to speak,” said Sutton.
Sutton credits a lot of Matalan’s success this past year on good timing, good strategy, and the importance of good software solutions for ecommerce.
“Having a system that gives you a view of the orders, lets you see what you’ve sent and what you haven’t, or what you short shipped — it puts things into queues, which is vital — that view and that organization this year has been so desperately needed because everything has shifted to online,” said Sutton.