Case Study: River Island

July 16, 2020

As an agile and ambitious enterprise, River Island wanted to make their operation fit for the future.

River Island is a successful omnichannel retailer with a DC based in Milton Keynes fulfilling online orders across more than 70 packing benches. The 40,000 square metre DC split between 2 units is located on 23 acres at Magna Park, fulfilling on average over 125,000 online orders per week and growing., a division of, are the UK’s number one provider of end to end duplex thermal print and label solutions for fulfilment and ship from store and have earned a strong reputation as a business innovator.

With over 20 years experience of designing and implementing print and label solutions for various applications in the retail sector, the team recognised how effective duplex thermal printer solutions could be in an e-commerce operation and created a specialist division and website:

On the back of their success with shoe retailer Schuh, they approached River Island with a duplex thermal proposal in 2019 which would deliver faster processing speeds, reduce their waste and help them work more efficiently. Before working with Duplex Thermal Printers, the team at River Island used two different printers at each workstation: a simplex direct thermal printer for the shipping labels and laser printer for despatch notes. This required three different consumables: direct thermal shipping labels for the thermal printer, despatch note paper with integrated return labels and laser toner cartridges to print them through the laser printer. There was also the waste from the thermal label backer to remove.

The laser printers were becoming increasingly unreliable, causing downtime and the purchase, storage and distribution of all the consumables was time consuming.

The laser printers were also bulky with running costs that were much higher due to the cost of toner cartridges and the amount of toner that is required to print quality barcodes. In addition to excessive power consumption, the high frequency of having to change toner cartridges and load despatch notes into infeed trays also resulted in wear and tear and reliability issues with the printers.

It was a great opportunity for us to simplify this process, have fewer touches, deliver faster processing speeds and reduce waste. What’s more, we could gain further efficiencies using the fastship consumable by not enclosing paperwork with the order. Amanda Gibson | Duplex Thermal Printers

The Toshiba DB-EA4D printers are compact, rugged and robust devices designed to provide a low-cost, easy to manage and environmentally friendly solution. They offer a reliable, efficient and easy-to-use alternative to traditional single-sided printers, being faster and more environmentally friendly than laser printers using toner cartridges. The duplex thermal printer simultaneously prints on both sides of a two sided label material at speeds of up to six inches per second, which dramatically reduces printing time.

The ‘fast-ship’ consumable was custom designed by the team at Duplex Thermal Printers for River Island. It provides a shipping label and a tear bar to allow the customer to peel back and reveal their returns note including a Royal Mail returns label with adhesive, still maintaining a simple and convenient customer experience for returning an item. The fast-ship is an innovative label/document which can also be used for gift applications and to cross-sell and upsell on additional products or services.

The fast-ship design is user friendly and the staff found it easy to handle. It also eliminates the risk of data ending up in the wrong place. Fran Symons | River Island

The new print solution has reduced errors and improved accuracy, eliminating the risk of mismatching returns note with shipping labels in line with GDPR principles. The auto feed functionality of the printer also makes it quick and easy to reload.

Thanks to the agile and dedicated IT Scrum team efforts with integration at River Island and after carrying out trials with the new printers, they reported immediate and significant improvements:

  • The despatch note became a returns note and reduced to a third of its original size
  • Lower overhead costs by using one printer instead of two
  • Less manual handling and print processing time was halved

This was a crucial boost to their operation and the decision was made to go live with the solution at the start of November 2019 ready for the Black Friday sales and ahead of the Christmas shopping season.

In addition to operational efficiencies, this has also had a significant environmental impact on their operation.

This is the first time we have had all the workstation printers fully operational through peak. The laser printers were prone to jamming and other faults that took them temporarily out of service. Staff loved the simplicity of the Toshiba printer. Fran Symons | River Island