Today’s shopper wants options, whether that be buy online ship to home, ship to store, or shop in store. That’s why it’s important to have an accurate count of what inventory is available to sell and where, says Peter Stratton Jr., executive vice president and chief financial officer of big and tall men’s apparel retailer Destination XL Group Inc.
DXL prides itself on its in-store customer shopping experience, Stratton says. But customers want the option to shop online as well, he says. More than 30% of DXL’s sales are online. Its 281 stores across the U.S. also serve as additional fulfillment locations when needed. This allows the retailer to cast a wider net and reach more shoppers.
“The problem with a store is that you’re constrained by how many customers are within a reasonable drive time to that store,” Stratton says. “Whereas online, you’re not constrained by any geographic restrictions.”
If a customer drives to a store for pick up, they’d better not show up only to find out the item isn’t there.
DXL online sales and Q4 earnings
DXL’s online customer base is growing. On March 16, DXL told investors its digital commerce sales grew 58.3% from fiscal 2019-2022. Digital commerce sales are those that originate online through DXL.com, at the store level through its Universe platform, or through a third-party marketplace. DXL also sells its private-label products on Amazon.com Inc., Walmart Inc. and Target Corp. marketplaces.
Direct-to-consumer website sales increased 9.9% in fiscal 2022, which ended Jan. 28, compared with fiscal 2021. For the fourth quarter of fiscal 2022, direct sales to the website were $49.2 million, up 35.2% compared with $46.8 million a year prior. DXL online sales represent 34.2% of DXL’s total retail sales.
Online conversion is less than 5%. In-store conversion falls within mid-40%, Stratton says.
More than half of DXL’s total sales in 2022 came from mobile devices, Stratton says.
DXL ranks No. 458 in the Top 1000, Digital Commerce 360’s database of the largest North American online retailers by web sales.
Managing in-store and online inventory
The retailer’s distribution centers remain the most cost-effective way to ship merchandise. But store locations also serve as satellite fulfillment centers when necessary. “Many of the stores do that,” he says.
“The stores all have the capability to fulfill direct orders, but we choose to use stores as a last resort to the distribution center,” he says. This is particularly useful in offloading clearance inventory that might otherwise sit unsold, he says. But, the strategy behind in-store is to promote the experience for the customer, he says. “Not process inventory.”
DXL sells a large variety of brands and assortments. Over the last two years, the retailer has cut its assortment of brands it sells, he says.
“There were a number of smaller brands that just did not make up a more meaningful position in the assortment,” he says. “We’ve had to eliminate some noise.”
Instead, Stratton says the retailer is focusing on its exclusivity agreements, such as owning the Nautica apparel brand to sell in big and tall sizes both in store and online. Other brands include Polo Ralph Lauren, Vineyard Vines and Robert Graham. A curated assortment for what Stratton calls the underserved customer. About 50% of DXL’s inventory is its private-label brands, and designer collections comprise the other half.
When customers want to buy online, whether through the website or through the app, and pick up in store (BOPIS), DXL’s in-house inventory management software triggers a query at the store level so associates can physically ensure the item is available in the store for “shop by store.” The associate confirms that with the customer before the customer drives to the store for pickup, Stratton says. Stores download the order and can typically pick up the item within four hours, he says.
DXL does not use a safety stock buffer, which triggers once a SKU gets below a certain quantity and no longer offers it online for purchase. Safety stock buffers are extra product kept aside for expected delays from suppliers.
“We don’t use this because of the low units per SKU, which would significantly limit the number of items in the assortment that we could offer online,” Stratton says.
Over the last five years, DXL has equipped its sales associates with iPads using its in-house Universe software from retail management software vendor Aptos.
“The customer is able to shop online [at DXL.com] while he’s in store trying it on,” Stratton says. The technology pulls together the desire to try on products in person combined with the endless aisle of shopping online, he says.
“We can hold a lot more merchandise in our warehouse distribution center than we can in store,” he says.
Whether buying in store or online, the average order value for DXL customers falls around $140, Stratton says.
Filling a niche need on marketplaces
Besides through DXL.com, the retailer’s online sales also come from Amazon, Target and Walmart marketplaces. DXL currently only sells its private-label products on marketplaces, marketing them as “essentials.”
“I think it’s really important for us to be where customers are shopping,” Stratton says. “If a customer is not going to come into a DXL store and only shops on Amazon, whoever is playing on the Amazon marketplace is going to capture that.”
“We want to make sure we capture that sale,” he continues. It is the retailer’s hope that customers who buy through a “transactional experience,” such as marketplaces, become DXL.com customers.
“Big and tall is all we do. We don’t play in regular sizes at all,” Stratton says.
Stratton declined to share what percentage of online sales come from marketplaces specifically.
“The majority of our [online sales] are on DXL.com,” he says. “But Amazon [and other marketplaces] are areas that are definitely growing. We need to make sure we’re there for him to be able to offer that customer our product as well.”
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