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Comment: the long and winding road to multi-channel

The journey from running stores to a seamless multi-channel business is painful and long - and seems to be getting longer. A successful transformation calls for support and commitment from the very top. By Gavin Matthews, head of retail at Bond Dickinson.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Comment: the long and winding road to multi-channel

The journey from running stores to a seamless multi-channel business is painful and long - and seems to be getting longer. A successful transformation calls for support and commitment from the very top. By Gavin Matthews, head of retail at Bond Dickinson.

I recently an industry breakfast alongside senior retailers during which we discussed what it takes to create a multi-channel business from a stores-based operation.

It is fair to say that many retailers are still grappling with the ever-faster pace of technological change. While the pure on-line retailers such as Asos and Ao.com have clearly grasped the power of the internet, for established store-operated retailers, there is still a serious lack recognition.

Clearly a successful transformation from purely stores-operated to a slick multi-channel offering takes more than a few apps and a database. Let's take the example of Tesco's. CEO Philip Clarke recently commented that more commitment was needed for it to deliver on its company's multi-channel aims. And this is a retailer that has been working on its multi-channel offering since it started its on-line grocery home shopping service in the late 1990's!

The message is clear. Multi-channel is not a short-term objective. It requires time, investment in people with the right skill sets, good CRM systems and the implementation of new propositions such as click & collect. Equally importantly, it needs the right internal culture, cascaded from the top right through to store and warehouse staff. And let's not forget: the store itself is a very important asset in this offering. More needs to be done to turn basic stores into shopping destinations. And you can't have a destination store without an excellent client service.

A challenge? Certainly. But one that is necessary to take on if one is to survive the revolutionary change that is engulfing the industry.

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