Coronavirus has seen some of the nation’s most well known brands forced into abandoning pre-lockdown plans, and ultimately seen thousands of jobs lost as a result. Today, Boots – along with celebrated retailer John Lewis – succumbed to the financial pressures dealt by COVID-19, confirming that between them 5,300 employees would be cut. Yet, back in January Boots had opted to drive through its proposed scheme to expand its pharmacy services, a move made despite its parent company admitting difficult market conditions in the UK.
Boots claimed at the time it would pilot “new private independent prescribing clinics” as a result of its successful cystitis test and treatment service.
According to Chemist and Druggist, Boots – established in 1849 by John Boot – hoped this would “improve the customer journey” while “broadening access to healthcare”.
However, this announcement came against a difficult market backdrop, with Walgreen Boots Alliance – the firm’s parent company – announcing it had seen a 3.6 percent drop in gross profit for its international retail division, which includes Boots UK.
It advised that although there was “lower retail sales and margin in Boots UK”, it continued to “hold a share in a declining market”.
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Boots UK told the publication it would “work to improve” the pharmacy aspect of its business, which would include the addition of express lanes and checkouts.
It added: “Patients are increasingly looking for new and easy ways to manage their medicines.”
Yet, as a result of the damaged high street market due to the pandemic, it would appear Boots’ plans are now in tatters.
On Thursday, Boots confirmed it would be consulting on plans for a restructure, while also closing 48 Boots Opticians stores.
Boots: Last year it was announced 200 shops would close
The decision comes after Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed on Wednesday that new plans to support the economy would not be able to stop millions of workers potentially losing their jobs.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Sunak said: “Is unemployment going to rise, are people going to lose their jobs?’ Yes, and the scale of this is significant.
“We are entering one of the most severe recessions this country has ever seen. That is of course going to have a significant impact on unemployment and on job losses.”
The Chancellor also apologised for not being able to help “everyone in exactly the way they would have wanted” and that he couldn’t protect “every single job”.
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Boots: The chemist’s announcement came alongside John Lewis’
Back in 2019, the company – which has shops across high streets, shopping centres, train stations and airports – saw its sales suffer another drop and at that time claimed up to 200 shops would be closed by 2020.
Sebastian James, managing director of Boots UK, said: “WBA has now approved an outline plan to consolidate around 200 local pharmacies, stores where we have a large number within close proximity.
“We believe this is the right thing to do as it means that we can invest more in staffing those stores while not reducing our 90 percent coverage within a 10-minute drive of a Boots.
“We do not anticipate a significant effect from this activity to colleagues as we will redeploy the overwhelming majority to neighbouring stores.
“At the same time, we continue to open new stores where we believe there are communities that would benefit from a new Boots – for example, the new Covent Garden flagship.”