It's A Doddle: Retail Firm Creates 3,000 Jobs
The founder of Travelex will announce plans this week to create 3,000 jobs through a new joint venture targeting Britons' fast-growing demand for click-and-collect retail services.
Sky News understands that Lloyd Dorfman and Network Rail are investing tens of millions of pounds in a project to open stores under the name Doddle at 300 railway stations over the next three years.
Mr Dorfman and Network Rail, who will be equal shareholders in Doddle, believe it has the potential to become a dominant player in the fast-growing market for the delivery of goods bought through digital channels.
The two investors are committing £24m in funding to facilitate Doddle's nationwide roll-out.
Network Rail operates 2,500 stations around the UK, roughly 20% of which are expected to be suitable for Doddle's service.
Doddle has signed up retailers including Asos, New Look and TM Lewin, as some of its founding partners, enabling consumers to collect and return goods bought from them through its network of sites.
Some of the Doddle shops, which will include high footfall locations such as London Waterloo and Brighton stations, will have changing facilities for consumers who have bought clothing online.
The shops will also be staffed, which Doddle expects will give it an advantage over rivals. Some recent start-ups offer convenience of location but do not have employees to address potential problems or supervise the return of unwanted goods.
Crucially, Doddle will be available to every merchant on the high street and online, as well as parcel carriers and shippers, which over time is expected to create hubs for the collection, return and sending of parcels.
The new service effectively pits Doddle against Royal Mail as well as new click-and-collect operators, which have waded into an increasingly intense battle to attract shoppers.
Transport for London, which is responsible for the London Underground network, struck deals earlier this year with Tesco and Waitrose to expand its range of retail services, part of reforms which sparked staff anger.
Other retailers are turning to similar partnership models which aim to maintain customer traffic in their store networks.
Home Retail Group announced last year an agreement with eBay, the online auctioneer, which allows consumers to buy goods from the site and collect them from Argos shops.
Research by Doddle is understood to show that 30 million British consumers now use click-and-collect services, a rise of roughly one-third on a year ago.
Many consumers also say they would be more likely to do so if the method for organising returns was simpler.
Mr Dorfman is one of the UK's most successful entrepreneurs, turning Travelex into the world's largest retail foreign exchange provider before selling it last month to a Middle East-based consortium.
The new business is to be run by Tim Robinson, who was drafted in from Network Rail and has been overseeing its development for several months.