British pharmacy, health & beauty chain, Boots has decided to reduce 7% of its workforce in the UK. Boots UK recently announced a restructuring across its head office, store teams and Opticians teams, which is expected to result in retrenchment of more than 4,000 people and the closure of 48 Boots Opticians stores.
This step is being taken to mitigate the significant impact of COVID-19 on the Boots business, while accelerating the next phase of its transformation plan to ensure a healthy future.
While Boots remained open throughout the lockdown to provide communities with vital pharmacy and healthcare services, footfall at the stores reduced dramatically, as its revenue-driving beauty and fragrance counters were closed. More than 100 larger stores in 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 the same period in 2019.
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Even though restrictions are beginning lifted gradually, the economic outlook remains uncertain, as the high street is expected to take considerable time to recover.
“The proposals announced 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,” said Sebastian James, managing director, Boots UK. “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 the 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.”
On the other hand, Boots will continue to review and accelerate its transformation plan, as the COVID-19 pandemic has led more consumers to shop online. Boots responded quickly to this changing consumption behaviour by investing in, and doubling, the capacity of Boots.com over the lockdown period. This led to a 78% increase in Boots.com sales over the period and opened up more home delivery slots. 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.
Going forward, Boots will continue to invest in online and digital services as a key driver for business growth.