Boots UK is taking decisive action to mitigate the significant impact that COVID-19 has had on the business and is accelerating the next phase of the Boots Transformation Plan. Although Boots remained open throughout the lockdown to provide communities with vital pharmacy and healthcare services, the footfall in stores was dramatically reduced, and its revenue-driving beauty and fragrance counters were closed. More than 100 larger stores in the city centre, station and airport locations were closed, as were the majority of Boots Opticians practices. These factors severely impacted comparable retail sales, which decreased 48% for Boots UK and 72% for Boots Opticians in the third quarter (versus last year). Restrictions are beginning to lift, but with an uncertain economic outlook, it is anticipated that the high street will take considerable time to recover.
Boots has announced today the start of a consultation process for a significant restructuring across its head office, store teams and Opticians teams, resulting in a reduction of its headcount of more than 4,000 (7% of the workforce), and the closure of 48 Boots Opticians stores. COVID-19 has also accelerated the shift by consumers towards digital channels and online shopping. Boots responded quickly by investing in and doubling, the capacity of Boots.com over the lockdown period. This action opened up more home delivery slots and drove a 78% increase in Boots.com sales over the period. Additional actions included increasing the capacity of the free online repeat prescription deliveries and the introduction of new online pharmacy and beauty services such as virtual consultations. The acceleration of the Transformation Plan will see continued investment into online and digital services as a key driver of growth for the business.
Sebastian James, Managing Director, Boots UK, said: “The proposals announced today are decisive actions to accelerate our Transformation Plan, allow Boots to continue its vital role as part of the UK health system, and ensure profitable long-term growth. In doing this, we are building a stronger and more modern Boots for our customers, patients and colleagues. I am so very grateful to all our colleagues for their dedication during the last few challenging months. They have stepped forward to support their communities, our customers and the NHS during this time, and I am extremely proud to be serving alongside them. We recognise that today’s proposals will be very difficult for the remarkable people who make up the heart of our business, and we will do everything in our power to provide the fullest support during this time.”