Chemist Warehouse co-founder Jack Gance has spoken to mainstream media about its lift in sales thanks to the global pandemic
“Our online business has been escalating pretty strongly since March,” Mr Gance told The Australian’s Associate Editor (Business) Glenda Korporaal over the weekend.
This increase means online sales have risen to about 8 or 9% of the discount giant’s total turnover of nearly $6 billion – despite a dropoff in sales to daigou, buyers who obtain goods in Australia to send back to China.
Mr Gance said he believed that online sales were unlikely to reduce back to their pre-COVID rate after restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus are loosened.
“COVID has accelerated trends by as much as five years, including the decline of cash and the increased use of credit cards,” he said.
Trends such as people wanting to continue dyeing their hair, but who are unable to get to a hairdresser due to restrictions, have helped lift sales, Mr Gance told The Australian.
He said that if online sales continue to rise, the discounter may have to look at investing up to $50 million in a more automated system for managing its warehousing.
Currently, the Preston warehouse – where online sales are fulfilled – has a system where workers talk to a computer about the items they are packing, before placing them on a conveyor belt.
“Luckily, we had that warehouse management system in place, and we were able to double our turnover without a lot of extra labour,” Mr Gance told Ms Korporaal.
When it comes to automation, “We still have a way to go,” he said.