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Boots shows its hand and joins card wars

Boots the Chemists has become the latest retailer to join the loyalty card battle with the launch nation-wide of its Advantage card. The card, which has been on trial in East Anglia and the South-west for the last two years, will be available across the country from 1 September.

Boots claimed its use of smart card technology would give its loyalty scheme an edge over those of rival retailers. Each card will carry a computer chip enabling holders to redeem points instantly against purchases made in any of Boots' 1,260 stores.

The card will cost Boots pounds 52m over three years though it hopes to achieve a sales uplift of 4 per cent by the end of the financial year 1988-99 which would make it self-funding. It forecasts 8 million members by September next year.

Robert Miller, retail analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, said the smart card technology would give Boots "pretty potent information" on its customers' shopping habits.

Boots the Chemist managing director Steve Russell said the card would make it easier to offer additional functions including medical or health insurance. He denied a possible move into banking but said a credit card was an option.