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EDITORIAL From WH Smith and M&Co to Joules: how retailers are reassessing the role of shops in their multichannel businesses

In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we’re reporting as Joules, M&Co and WH Smith reassess the role of shops in the light of Covid-19. All three multichannel retailers have looked again at whether their shops still work for them in at a time when more people are opting to do more of their shopping online. 

For Joules, which has a smaller number of shops, its stores remain important for it as part of its ‘total retail’ multichannel business model, although it will keep a watching brief on those where rents are still high relative to turnover.

WH Smith, meanwhile, is reconsidering its store operations at a time when its sales are down in both its travel and its high street divisions and it has warned that it will consult on cutting up to around 1,500 jobs in its businesses. Store closures seem likely to follow.

M&Co has already taken the decision to close 47 stores at the cost of more than 380 jobs, via a prepack administration. It will now be hoping to use online and multichannel services to make its presence felt well beyond its store estate.  

Pureplay Naked Wines, meanwhile, is seeing its business expand fast as shoppers turn online to buy wine – and it believes it’s at a point of change. And fellow online-only retailer AO is expanding its logistics business in response to rising levels of customer demand.

Between them these retailers are showing that shops aren’t necessary for every retailer, but that, increasingly, when they work best is when they fit into a multichannel model that enables shoppers to buy through the most convenient channel at any given point. Those that don’t, meanwhile, need to follow AO in offering fast and reliable delivery that suits customers’ needs.

Today’s guest comment comes from Zach Thomann of PFS who considers how traders can best navigate a post-Covid crosschannel contactless world. 

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