Boots Covent Garden arrives with new retail technology features

Boots unveils its new London Covent Garden store to customers today (27 June), with the space featuring a fresh design and several services not seen in its wider portfolio.

The flagship shop is part of the health and beauty retailer’s transformation programme which involves the modernisation of its store estate and the heightening of staff expertise in beauty, pharmacy and optician services.

As well as revamped spaces dedicated to these key focus areas and a more open store format, which includes beauty discovery zones, a wellness area, and lower shelving to improve navigation, there are a host of technological features on display.

On the ground floor of the two-storey site there is a dedicated ‘selfie zone’, which encourages shoppers to take pictures of themselves against a backdrop of Boots marketing slogans for sharing on social media. In addition, digital screens displaying marketing material are prominent in the front windows.

Throughout the shop there is more use of digital screens than in traditional Boots sites, with Melanie Widdowson, head of in-store marketing and merchandising, saying it helped open up the aisles by reducing cardboard signposting and point of sale messaging.

“We didn’t want to introduce screens for screen's sake – that’s not the purpose,” she explained.

“We’ve thought about where it will help us reduce cardboard in the future and also how we can build that omnichannel customer journey into the whole process.”

The ‘omnichannel’ process she describes is evident in the new express pick-up pharmacy areas, where customers can either collect prescriptions from staff or from dedicated lockers which they can unlock using codes messaged to them in advance.

Indeed, managing director Seb James is considering introducing collection lockers outside stores to make picking up prescriptions more convenient for customers.

Parent group Walgreens Boots Alliance announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft in January, and it is expected to start having a tangible impact on Boots in the coming months as it modernises store IT infrastructure and fazes out IBM tech and other legacy systems.

Essential Retail understands the partnership will ultimately lead to Android devices replacing Apple technology used by staff in stores, with mobile point of sale (MPoS) set to be implemented in Boots Covent Garden and other flagships by the end of the year.

MPoS will enable staff in the new-look beauty areas to take payment from customers on the shop floor, providing a natural extension to the tablet-assisted selling techniques adopted by newly trained experts. It is also a move expected to reduce queuing time.