For the avoidance of doubt, I’m a practicologist not a proctologist.

For the avoidance of doubt, I’m a practicologist not a proctologist.

Are you sitting comfortably? As I’m sure we’ve all experienced, buying more sensitive products such as haemorrhoid cream in a pharmacy can be a harrowing experience, particularly when there are 15 people queuing behind you.

As a result, Boots now does rather well online. However, more than 50% of online orders are picked up in store –the immediacy of collecting said cream the same day is a key benefit.

Yet for the 16 years I have been involved in ecommerce, there’s been continual debate over its potential cannibalisation of store sales. Frankly I’m bored of addressing this. Anyone who still thinks the web cannibalises store sales in a multichannel business should think about retiring, retraining, or relocating to a desert island.

I’m also deeply concerned by the growing number of analysts’ reports calling for retailers to ‘downsize their store portfolio’ without paying any cognisance to how the customer wants to shop.

For example, John Lewis purports to have about 30% of web orders picked up in store through click-and-collect (M&S is at 40%).

For these retailers, the consumer demand for click-and-collect is growing at nearly twice the rate of those ordering for home delivery.

Remove the wrong stores, and you remove the ability for the customer to choose click-and-collect. And therefore you probably lose business.

No matter what the sector, some customers prefer to research online but buy offline and vice versa.

The web will always be responsible for pushing sales into the store channel. In the fashion and homes and gardens sectors, for every £1 spent online the websites push £5 and £2.70 of sales in store respectively, according to Google.

And of course when the customer comes into the store to pick up their goods they ordered online, retailers can upsell to them. I’m not 100% clear what the upsell is for haemorrhoid cream. Possibly a cushion of some description?

  • Martin Newman, Chief executive, Practicology