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From Hotel Chocolat to Toolstation: how leading retailers are investing online and in stores as they look to stay close to the consumer

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In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we report on how both Hotel Chocolat and Toolstation have opened more stores as they look to get closer to their customers.That’s strikes us as interesting at a time when many others are closing theirs. Both retailers showed their sales grew as a result – unsurprisingly – but Hotel Chocolat also showed its profits were up. It’s less clear from the Travis Perkins figures how Toolstation profitability was affected by the move. 

It’s worth noting that neither retailer invested in stores in isolation. The two both also report making it easier for customers to buy from it online. Hotel Chocolat has launched a new wholesale website to make the job easier for third-party retailers, while also investing in the loyalty of its own direct customers through its VIP Me scheme. Toolstation has improved its delivery and collection options, something that makes sense in a market where Screwfix, offering market-leading delivery and collection options, is doing so well.

Property owner Hammerson, also unsurprisingly, thinks stores remain important to retail brands. It argues, in results out this week, that in a world where it’s now expensive to be on the front page of Google, shops remain an important means of raising brand awareness, even though a growing proportion of sales now take place online. It’s battling a perception that the high street is dying, and that’s having an effect on the value of its properties. Nonetheless, it seems to us likely that retailers that can pull off the trick of staying profitable, while staying close to the consumer, will ultimately win out. 

That theme of staying close to the customer is also reflected as we report on how mobile network business Vodafone and chip maker Arm are working together with a view to making it easier for retailers and other businesses to roll out Internet of Things connected devices at scale around the world. DMA research gives us new insights into how GDPR has changed how close retailers are now staying to their customers via email. 

Since a no deal Brexit still remains firmly on the table, today we have an extra guest comment with guidance on dealing with the extra taxes and custom duties that such a scenario would produce, courtesy of tax specialist Rob Asquith of Avalara. 

Our regular guest comment comes from Simon Farthing of Monetate, who considers the importance of personalisation to ecommerce sales. 

Image: Fotolia

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