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Thursday, 2 March, 2000, 16:12 GMT
WH Smith puts newsagents online
The portal will link thousands of newsagents
Retailer WH Smith is setting up a portal to put all the newsagents it supplies on the internet.

The company, which is the UK's biggest newspaper distributor, is joining up with Axon, the e-business technology group, to provide the system.

The aim is to improve trading links and the flow of information between WH Smith and the newsagents.

Magazine display
Shops will be able to order online
It will eventually be opened up to other wholesalers and distributors, creating a one-stop shop for confectionery, tobacco and newspapers.

That means the initial project involving 8,000 newsagents could be expanded to take in 45,000 shops.

WH Smith has been aggressive in pushing its internet consumer services. Its target is to achieve one-third of the online book market.

Now it is developing the business-to-business side of its operation. And as well as making life easier for the retailers, there are other benefits.

"The real hook is that these newsagents have to transact with their wholesaler every day, which guarantees a daily hit and opens up huge opportunities," explained Don Kirkwood, Axon's chief operating officer.

It provides a promotional channel for suppliers who are currently spending a total of 50m a year to reach their target audience.

Axon logo
Axon is working on even more accurate targetting
"The next evolution of the portal will be what we call one-to-one, so what each individual newsagent sees will be tailored to them," Mr Kirkwood told BBC News Online.

"It monitors what they do and what they look at and compiles a log. Launches of products can then be targetted very accurately to where they are going to have the greatest effect."

He sees this type of development as an unrivalled promotional activity, the modern way to unlock a phenomenal asset base.

"In even the most slow-moving organisations, the desire to do this is overwhelming. Companies are really aware of the practical uses of the internet, not just to cut costs or to make more profits, but to open up new developments within their existing customer base," said Mr Kirkwood.

"All our new business in the past year has been from business-to-business e-commerce.

"There are massive opportunities for larger companies to take advantage of e-commerce and it's usually the case that they can move into the market a lot quicker."

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28 Oct 99 |  The Company File
WH Smith pushes online books
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