ou may have gone online to buy DVDs, do your weekly food shop or even book your holiday, but what about purchasing corporate clothing? You can’t afford not to, says David Green, the mastermind behind Allen & Douglas’s latest technological revolution
Once upon a time, the customer of a corporate clothing supplier, who wanted to buy stock garments, eagerly phoned up to order a catalogue. The supplier took their details and told them that they would send one out straight away. But because the post wasn’t always reliable, the customer spent several days languishing by the window and waiting for their postman to come. By the time the catalogue turned up, a huge pile of work had also landed on the customer’s desk and they weren’t able to choose the products they wanted, complete the order form and post it for a few more days. But once they did get round to it, the wait wasn’t over, as the supplier still had to receive the order and send the goods to them...
If this sounds more like real life than fantasy then Allen and Douglas may have the solution. The corporate wear supplier, which is an industry leader when it comes to implementing the latest IT, understands that time has never been more precious for its customers. We no longer have to spend hours slaving over an oven thanks to microwaves or wait years for our prince to come now we have speed dating, so why should a customer have to wait ages to receive a uniform?
That’s why Allen & Douglas decided it was time to launch Shop Online - a catalogue of stock items that customers can order 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be accessed through Allen & Douglas’s homepage at www.aandd.co.uk or directly at www.shoponline-aandd.co.uk.
Finance director David Green, who created the site, says: “We used to send out big catalogues but, rather than a customer having to fill out a form and send it back to us, it’s quicker and easier for them to go onto our website and order from there. The sooner Allen & Douglas receive the order, the sooner we can send the product out to the customer. If it’s in stock it should be next day delivery.”
Who is it for?
There are two sides to the website: Shop Online and Leisure Zone. David says that anyone can use Shop Online, which mainly offers suits and workwear, but that it is primarily aimed at businesses in the hotel, retail, transport and restaurant sectors. Leisure Zone, however, which will launch in August, is more for individuals who want casual sportswear and outdoor wear such as waterproof jackets and trousers. Permanent discounts off this range, which will include Stormtec branded garments, will be offered to the staff of their customers.
But, incentives aside, Allen & Douglas’s procurement team has worked hard to make the site relevant to the industry by selecting the right garments. David says: “You can go online and buy a shirt from countless websites but they won’t necessarily be fit for purpose. We make sure that our garments are tested in terms of quality, design and functionality so that they perform for the industry that they are designed to perform for.”
Constantly updating the site with new products and changes based on indirect feedback are other ways in which Allen & Douglas is trying to meet the needs of its customers. “What our customers want is of prime importance,” says David. “And as the actual site itself gives us a lot of information about where people look, we can make sure that we only keep products that people are interested in on the system.”
How does it work?
Allen & Douglas’s main priority when designing the site was to make it easy to use. On the left side of the screen you can click on a list of categories, which are split into hotels, bars and restaurants, transport and retail, and browse the pictures, descriptions and prices of the garments that have been suggested for those sectors. You then simply select the quantity you want and add it to your shopping cart.
“With worries of internet fraud, making the site secure was also paramount," David adds. "So once a customer has placed their order, they are transferred to the site of the major bank that we use, which takes their credit card details and payment. Once that’s been approved, they get a thank you message and we get an order on our system.” And if you want to return an item, it’s no problem - you can return it in its original packaging within 28 days.
But Shop Online is only one facet of the unique IT service that Allen & Douglas offers to its customers. David says: “Ever since the internet became well-known, we’ve always had a web presence. We were one of the first people in the industry to have a website, so we’ve always been up there at the forefront.”
In Chapter Two, director-e explores how customers of corporatewear suppliers can benefit from the collaboration of a whole host of IT advances that are set to take the industry by storm. And with Allen & Douglas’s long-term commitment to technological developments, it comes as no surprise that they are leading the way.