Fenwick closes its online store for refurb

Ecommerce opinion: During website redesign do you close completely?

By Rhian Harris

Department store, Fenwick recently closed its virtual doors to online shoppers whilst it undergoes a digital makeover.

Until early 2015.

But in today’s booming online economy, is it the right decision to close an online revenue stream completely?

On one hand, if your site is completely unmanageable in its present form – either because of resource / expertise / managerial shortage, poor inventory control, or perhaps logistical / systematic weakness – then perhaps the best idea is to ‘shut up shop’ until the channel can really maximise the opportunity.

But I can’t help but think this is a long time for a transactional website to be out of action.

I mean, last year the internet retailing market grew by 16% with clothing showing a 17% growth YoY in December 2013.  In 2014, the The IMRG estimates that £107bn will be spent online over the year.

So for Fenwick to be non-transactional for such a long time, should have a massive impact on the bottom line. Not to mention the impact on SEO rankings as product pages and descriptions are simply removed from the search index (that is if they were properly optimised to start with).

Fenwick has posted a statement on its website explaining to customers the decision to close the online store and use fenwick.co.uk solely as a platform to promote in-store offers, store news and any other updates from the group stating:

“The great response means we’re working to bring you the full department store experience in the coming year. Our online shop will remain closed for renovations until then – but we’ll make it worth the wait.”

Now, having been involved in website redesign projects before, I know that with any relaunch there is a lot of work to do, and it should never be a short process.

Taking each and every aspect from the fundamental basics of defining the vision, goals and strategy, considering audience needs, agreeing budgets, resource and sign-off processes, and selecting platforms and devices, before you even get into content strategy, look and feel and how the thing actually looks or works, it should be suitably planned and scheduled.

But usually in parallel with running an existing platform.

Personally, I think that the statement and direction Fenwick has taken implies that customer feedback more or less said, “cut your losses and start again”, which I believe is not only damaging to profitability but also brand reputation. I’m also reading that to be another leadership team that focuses on traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ of the high street rather than the true multi-channel experience, which signifies questionable success of the overall project in today’s world of ecommerce.

What do you think? Do you agree that a site should a site ‘close’ during a rebuild?

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