Online delivery firm Shoply, has introduced new charges for stores and cut staff to give it “the best chance of getting through the next few months.”

The firm is partnered with independent convenience stores across the UK. Letters sent to these stores last week said there had been “some changes within our team” and that founder and chief executive, John Robertson was now the main point of contact. The message also revealed Shoply: “Will now be charging for the time taken to add new products and categories to your store.”

Responding to the letter, one retailer told betterRetailing: “It’s unbelievable, it’s not what we were sold.” They claimed that while the consumer facing site is polished, it lacks the necessary tools to allow stores to change their own ranging.

Another retailer, Abdul Manan, owner of Tweed Drive Corner Shop in Livingston has been offering the service since February 2020, but recently switched it off temporarily due to driver shortages. “The sales had come down a little, but it was still performing very well and with a second lockdown approaching I’m expecting a similar uptick in online orders.”

Asked to about the terms changes, Robertson responded: “We could have handled more considerately with our retailers the changes to our charging structure and for that we apologise.  In essence, it takes us on average two days to build a store – we absorb these costs as part of the initial registration fee. Stores can have upwards of 1,000 products at launch, a small proportion of which goes on to constitute best sellers.  On top of this, we receive multiple requests each week from retailers wishing to update their product ranges.”

He said these tasks cost ‘a full-time developer’s salary’ that was previously absorbed by Shoply.

Despite the changes, the founder said Shoply “have never been in a stronger position in terms of sales performance.” While he admitted orders had slowed since lockdown, he revealed they are still up by 390% compared with the pre-covid 2020 period. He added that the service has 6,000 customers placing 2.6 orders per month each.

John Robertson said ‘every penny’ of investment went on improving its tech and operations, but that more funds were needed. “While the Covid pandemic has been good for sales, it hasn’t been good for investment. To stand us the best chance of getting through the next few months, we have stripped back our overheads as much as possible while still being able to provide the same level of service we have built our reputation on to both our retailer partners and our customers.”

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