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WH Smith builds loyalty offer with finance links

WH Smith is looking to transform its fortunes ahead of the arrival of chief executive Kate Swann with a revamp of its Clubcard loyalty scheme and the launch of a concept store.

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The retailer, facing increasing competition from grocery multiples' moves into non-food retailing, has struck partnership deals to offer discounted AXA and Lloyds TSB products to thousands of Clubcard members.

WH Smith had been predicted to join the Nectar coalition loyalty scheme when it launched last year and has since been reviewing the direction of Clubcard.

Depending on their success, the affinity mailings, created by Diametric, may be extended to partners in a number of service industries. They are an indication that WH Smith is keen to rebuild Clubcard into a central marketing tool after years in which the scheme received little investment.

Next week, the company will unveil a further clue to its plans for re-engaging consumers when it unveils a two-storey shop in Guildford, Surrey. The store will employ a much higher number of staff than the average branch of WH Smith, with personnel on hand to demonstrate new ways of using products. It will also operate a new merchandising strategy, with areas dedicated to kids and families.

The revamp follows the announcement earlier this month that WH Smith chief executive Richard Handover is to be replaced by Swann, managing director of Argos, when he steps down later this year.

Swann, 38, is a former marketing director of Homebase. Her appointment raises questions over the future of the woman she beat to the job, UK retail managing director Beverley Hodson.

Her appointment is designed to breathe new life into the group, which suffered poor sales last Christmas. It was the first in several years that was advertised without 'Only Fools and Horses' actor Nicholas Lyndhurst.

Interim results reported in April showed a modest rise in pre-tax profits from £89m to £91m.

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