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Why Is Self-Pickup Flourishing In Post-Covid Times?

Yet another department store is expanding the service.

You go inside a store, head straight for the counter by the door and pick up an order that you had already paid for. In some cases you don't even have to enter the store as the pickup rack is placed by the curb.

While hardly a "trip out" or a pleasant "shopping experience," this kind of option was a way for everyone from fast food chains to department stores to get customers what they wanted quickly -- while only 6.9% of retailers offered curbside pickup in 2019, that number soared to 44% by August 2020.

Self-Pickup Isn't Going Anywhere

It's not uncommon for what was once designed as temporary solution to get adopted broadly. Even as indoor foot traffic picked up, restaurants like Wingstop  (WING)  and Yum! Brands  (YUM) 's Taco Bell have invested in stores designed primarily for food to be carried out rather than eaten inside.

Department stores, in turn, have also continued investing in curbside pickup. Walmart  (WMT)  has been working to make it available not just at the 4,735 main stores it has across the country but also at subsidiaries like Sam's Club.

Department store Kohl's  (KSS)  was the latest to announce that it is expanding its self-pickup option to each of its 1,100-plus stores. 

The goal is to bring down some of the holiday rush sure to come in November and December. The service, which is already available at certain Kohl's locations, will have customers pay for an order online and then select delivery as "self pick-up." 

Eligible items will be available at the store within two hours compared to the few days one would have to wait for delivery.

"Our teams have been working hard to ensure Kohl's Self-Pickup service was available for all of our customers ahead of the holiday rush," Siobhán McFeeney, Kohl's chief technology officer, said in a statement. "At Kohl's, we're focused on listening to what shoppers want, and using technology to make it as easy as possible for families to get everything they need quickly, and through a simple experience."

Self Pick-Up, Delivery, And Old-Fashioned In-Store Shopping: What Do People Want In 2022?

While shipping has been around long before the internet, it often comes down to picking between a longer wait time or a high fee for express delivery. 

Those who wanted both fast and cheap were better off going inside the store themselves. But when lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 made that difficult, many places saw the rise of self-pickup.

Groceries are still the most common self-pickup item, although the service is also commonly used by luxury department stores like Nordstrom  (JWN)  and Saks Fifth Avenue. 

A study from market research nonprofit Mercatus found that 61% of shoppers used self-pickup for online groceries at least once in 2021 while only 46% did the same for home delivery.

Unlike rivals Walmart and Target  (TGT) , Kohl's does not sell food. Company stock has been down 42% year-over-year while, in July, the company turned down an offer to be purchased by The Vitamin Shoppe owner the Franchise Group despite investor pressure over less-than-stellar performance.

"Clearly the the consumer is under even more pressure today,” Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass told CNBC in July. "We're not immune to that ... but Kohl's stands for value and at times like this it’s more important than ever to amplify that message."