A recent survey conducted by the National Association of Health Stores (NAHS) shows a significant increase in stores offering ‘call and collect’ services as a result of the restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

A total of 41 stores were canvassed – 13 of which are located in city centres and 28 of which trade out-of-town – between 2-8 September by the NAHS. The data, collated on Survey Monkey, shows a rise in the number of stores which began offering call and collect during lockdown. Of those surveyed, 32 stores (78%) reported that they had set up call and collect for their customers, with nine stores (22%) stating they had not.

This type of service, previously offered by very few independent health retailers, is something that Avril McCracken, NAHS administrator, thinks is ‘probably here to stay’.

“Call and collect seemed to be a great innovation. It was a no-brainer for them. One enterprising group of stores put up on Facebook asking local communities for delivery drivers, to help deliver to some of their more vulnerable customers and they were overwhelmed with offers. So that was really nice – community spirit. A lot of [new] customers came to them because they saw that they were there for them during the dark days. It is up to the stores to try and foster the relationship with these customers, so they do come back,” she tells NPN.

Call and collect seemed to be a great innovation. It was a no-brainer for them

While the majority of stores do not yet have an online presence (55%, versus 45% who do trade via a website) McCracken says many are looking into it. “That’s definitely something that we’re going to follow up on. We’re going to be working with bira to make it easier for them to get online.”

Another key takeaway from the data is the proportion of stores (71%) which said they were happy with the response they received from suppliers and manufacturers in lockdown. Just 12 retailers (29%) expressed dissatisfaction with wholesale services; McCracken says this was largely born out of a lack of communication and out of stocks.

“It was just felt that there was no communication going on. Probably a lot of the staff were working from home – it would have been difficult for them. And everybody understands how difficult it was to get the products … [suppliers] had problems getting things from around the world. But generally, 70% said they were quite satisfied.”

The figures at a glance

  • 66% of stores which engaged with the survey were trading full-time in September, compared to 34% which were trading part-time
  • 73% reported having no staff furloughed at that time, while 27% said some staff were still furloughed
  • 45% said footfall had increased since lockdown, versus 55% who said it had not
  • When asked if takings had increased since lockdown, 37% said yes and 63% said no
  • The majority (71%) reported being happy with the service received from suppliers during the pandemic, with just 21 stores (29%) expressing dissatisfaction
  • 45% of stores already operate online; 55% do not yet trade via e-commerce
  • Call and collect is offered by 78% of stores, compared with 22% who only offer in-store purchases
  • Stores canvassed were broken down geographically as follows: 32% city-centre and 68% out of town.