Friday, November 27, 2009

Are Boots walking the talk?

In a House of Commons Science and Technology Committee enquiry the professional standards director for Boots, Paul Bennett may have had a Gerald Ratner moment, telling the committee that Boots have no scientific evidence that Homeopathic remedies work, but they sell them because customers want to buy them.

Gerald Ratner is infamous for his remark during an after dinner speech when he said Ratners could sell products so cheaply beacuse they were crap. Customers stopped shopping at Ratners as this insulted them, and maybe highlighted a suspected truth they were happy to ignore previously but no longer could. Similarly, the statement made by Paul Bennet of Boots can be seen to be insulting to customers who purchase them from Boots, and exposes Boots as greedy and unethical if we choose to view them that way.

So will it cause them a problem? I suspect overall it won't be an issue. Partly because reporting of the issue, to date, has been less than that given to Gerald Ratner's comments but also because the comments only apply to a small portion of the range sold by Boots whilst Ratner was refering to a large amount of the business.

However, my main concern is how the issue highlights the importance of ensuring corporate actions match words. On Boots website, in the section on CSR in the marketplace it states:
"So it's part of our heritage to treat our customers fairly and act with integrity in everything we do, rather than seizing on the quickest and easiest way to turn a profit." link here.
This statement is not reflected in that given before the committee in relation to homeopathic remedies where they do seem to be saying that they are profitable so even if they don't do what they say Boots are happy to profit if customers are gullible enough to pay.

It is all about Managing Corporate Reputation, the title and subject of one unit in the CIM Chartered Post-Graduate Diploma syllabus, completion of whihc should help students to avoid issues such as this.

Some reporting on the issue from The Telegraph and The Times