Health and beauty giant Superdrug plans to launch a loyalty card in the UK in the next year.

The chain, owned by Hong Kong-based AS Watson, will be following in the footsteps of many of its sister companies around the world, and also its big UK rival Boots.

AS Watson already has 28 million customers in loyalty programmes in various markets around the world. Group managing director Dominic Lai said he considered it essential in future for any successful business to have a loyalty programme.

“We will have a UK loyalty card in a year’s time,” he told Retail Week. “In future no retailer will do well without a loyalty programme.”

Director of operations, investments and communications Malina Ngai said the group intended to use the knowledge built up from its loyalty programmes in some of its 38 markets to develop customer relationship management (CRM) programmes in more countries.

She added that the next step would be to upgrade the group’s IT systems to give the ability to implement a full CRM programme, which would have the added benefit of improving operational efficiency.

Superdrug’s big rival Boots has been a trailblazer in the field of loyalty programmes, and its Advantage Card programme has 16 million members in the UK. Lai said Superdrug is aiming to differentiate itself as a specialist in beauty as Boots focuses increasingly on healthcare.

Last year Superdrug made a £7.4m loss compared with a £21.6m profit the previous year after a decision to clear out terminal stock at a reduced margin. But Lai hinted that the chain would return to profit this year. Admitting it had experienced “some challenges”, Lai said: “I can’t give out numbers but Superdrug will deliver much better results this year.”