Boots reports sales drop at retail sites in UK

Boots has reported a drop in store sales over the last quarter as its high street and travel units were affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The health and beauty retailer saw group sales fall by 16.7% for the three months to 31 August, despite continued online growth.

Whilst like-for-like retail sales dropped by 29.2% as footfall “significantly reduced” and subsequently impacted high street and travel stores.

Although Boots said this signalled an improvement in footfall from the previous quarter, when like-for-like retail sales were 48% lower due to store closures.

Over the three-month period, the UK retailer has lost shares in every market in which it operates, except for beauty.

Despite this, Boots’ online sales saw a 155% growth in the fourth quarter, following on from a 78% increase in the previous quarter.

This follows as parent company Walgreen Boots Alliance said its international pharmacy retail division, which includes the UK chain, reported a $132m (£102m) operating loss that it said was primarily driven by lower UK sales.

Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO, Stefano Pessina said: “Despite uncertainty amid the global Covid-19 pandemic, we are seeing gradual improvement in key US and UK markets and continued strong performance in our wholesale business.”

“I’m also encouraged by the accelerating growth in our ecommerce platforms.”

“Now, more than ever, our pharmacy-centred business is at the heart of community healthcare and we are expanding on that role for the future.”

Last year Boots said it would close about 200 stores as part of its parent company’s effort to save $2bn in costs by 2022. So far 138 stores have closed.

In July, the health and beauty retailer warned it would axe over 4000 jobs – 7% of its workforce – mainly affecting staff at its Nottingham support office.

Walgreens said it was increasing investment – in digital services and store links to online shopping across the entire group – by $400m to $1bn in the year ahead because the pandemic had accelerated the switch away from high streets.