Bonds and the Amazon Threat

When meeting with management, I like to ask the really stupid questions upfront. I see a lot of people going into meetings trying to ask the ‘intellectual’ questions, because they are worried that the people across the table will think of them as inexperienced if they ask the simple questions. I actually find that the most simple questions have the most interesting answers.

 
We recently met with the management of Salmat. I asked Rebecca Lowde, the Acting CEO, what she thought the impact of Amazon entering Australia would be on the Salmat catalogue business. It’s the same question I asked the board of PMP Ltd when I met with them recently. The answers from the two companies vary greatly. PMP believe that Amazon will adopt catalogues. Rebecca, on the other hand, said that she thought the biggest threat to the retail sector was that Australian retailers are still heavily brick and mortar based. Unfortunately this traditional retailing is less and less appealing to their customers.

 

I actually experienced this first-hand when I needed new shirts from Bonds. I am extremely time poor, so I naturally do most of my shopping online. It’s generally quick and efficient to browse, purchase and gets items delivered to my door. Or that’s the way it should happen – unfortunately my experience with Bonds was lacking.

 
I buy basic white t-shirts from Bonds twice a year when they are on sale. They don’t seem to last long and I find I need to replace them every 6 months when most have worn so thin holes start emerging. This time around, after ordering them online, my shirts took weeks to arrive, when there are 3 Bonds stores in a 3km radius from where they were delivered!
It’s a shame that an Iconic Australian brand is damaging their reputation with a terrible online experience.

 

 

Bonds shipped me a few shirts in a ridiculous box, with the shirts thrown in haphazardly and the plastic hangers still attached. Does the markup on these shirts contribute to the shipping of this box, while something 80% smaller and presumably cheaper would have been just fine?

 
There are however some great Australian online experiences.

 
The shopping experience of a Bonds contrasts considerably to experienced online retailers, like Mr Porter (a specialist online retailer) for example. Traditional retailing and online retailing are so incomparable that I think Amazon won’t have to do too much other than open online to really show how bad some Australian retailers do online.

 
I currently use Amazon in the US for shopping, rather than the Australian website, so there isn’t a huge discrepancy to shopping on Amazon. I have a separate email address where I subscribe to websites of companies I like to purchase from and when they have a sale I buy on sale. Unfortunately Salmat’s comments are very true for some Australian retailers, and I’ve had a similar experience from other reputable Aussie brands.

 
If Australian retailers don’t get with the program, it won’t be Amazon coming in and stealing all of their customers. They are their own worst enemy, with customers going elsewhere – simply for an experience that actually offers what it promises.

Written by Glennon Capital
Article posted 16/06/17