Stores are an essential part of retail chain’s’s ecommerce strategy, says Varadheesh Chennakrishnan, chief information officer for the fabric and crafts retailer.

Bricks-and-mortar locations fulfill the lion’s share of orders, in most cases by shipping orders from stores to a shopper’s home. Buy online pick up in store accounted for 20-30% of online orders before the coronavirus, though that spiked when the pandemic took hold, and now Joann is providing additional convenience with a curbside pickup option.

In March, when the coronavirus was spreading rapidly in the U.S., 50% of Joann’s 800 stores were closed. At the same time, sales on the retailer’s ecommerce site took off, as shoppers were looking for materials—including fabric and elastics that Joann’s sells—to make masks, Chennakrishnan says. The retailer already had buy online pick up in store implemented across its chain, but that did little good if half its stores were closed.

“The number of online orders was far beyond even our traditionally busiest time of the year–Black Friday through the holidays,” Chennakrishnan says.

Joann’s two curbside paths

The retailer decided to launch curbside pickup to meet shopper demand, he says. Joann already used IBM’s order management system to support its BOPIS program, and that system allows the retailer to see a real-time snapshot of the inventory available in its stores and distribution centers, says Jeanette Barlow, vice president, strategy and offering management at IBM. Because Joann already had store-level inventory visibility, it had the data it needed to quickly launch curbside pickup, she says.

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