Boots UK is to axe more than 4,000 jobs and close 48 of its optician branches in a dramatic acceleration of its cost-saving ‘transformation plan’.
The job losses – seven per cent of the company’s total headcount – are in part due to the financial pressures of the coronavirus pandemic. The company’s Nottingham-based support function and Boots Optician stores will account for the greatest proportion of layoffs, though precise numbers are not yet known.
Some store-based roles – deputy and assistant manager, beauty advisor and customer advisor – will be affected by the company’s restructuring proposals, but pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy advisors are “not expected” to face job losses, the company said.
The announcement comes days after LloydsPharmacy revealed its own plans for restructuring with the possibility of redundancies.
Boots said it was taking “decisive action” to offset the impact Covid-19 has had on profits, with footfall “dramatically reduced” and beauty counters closed during the pandemic. Boots UK saw a 48 per cent drop in retail sales compared to the same period last year, while Boots Opticians saw a 72 per cent drop. Boots UK’s pharmacy sales dropped one per cent during this period.
Walgreens Boots Alliance’s financial report for most recent financial quarter reveals an “adverse sales impact” of $700 to $750 million from Covid-19, “almost entirely from the company’s non-US business” with the UK market worst hit.
More than 100 Boots stores were shuttered in the early stages of the crisis, though a spokesperson told Pharmacy Network News these are “beginning to reopen”. The restructuring will not involve further store closures, they added.
“Restrictions are beginning to lift, but with an uncertain economic outlook it is anticipated that the high street will take considerable time to recover,” the company said, adding that in the wake of increased demand for online services during the pandemic – it has reported an 80 per cent increase in Boots.com sales - it will be putting more investment into its digital offering.
Boots UK managing director Sebastian James said he was “very grateful” to Boots employees for their efforts during the last several months and that the company would seek to “provide the fullest support during this time”.
A consultation on the company’s restructuring proposals begins today. “As the further effects of the pandemic become known and macroeconomic conditions evolve, Boots will continue to review and progress its Transformation Plan,” said a spokesperson.