British pharmaceutical chain Boots is to consider closing 200 of its stores, it has been announced today.
In what has been a tough time for the high street, the closures are being considered as a cost cutting measure by it’s American owners Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA).
As someone who spends an awful lot of money in Boots, as well as having worked in several Boots stores across the UK, (once when said American bosses were paying a visit!), I thought I’d share my take on the situation.
This is what is working for Boots and well, what is not…
What Boots do well
With 2,500 stores, 90% of which are “within 10 minutes of the entire UK population”, location has always been a selling point for Boots. After all, Boots are primarily a chemist and so visibility on the high street is important when picking up prescriptions, or seeking medical advice.
I am also a fan of the Boots Advantage Card, as when buying high end items such as foundation and skin care this can really add up as rewards back. Though, sometimes offers are confusing and I will frequently find I have offers that could have earned me way more points, but they had to be pre-loaded first, or as happened a few days ago the offers were not displayed on the website. That being said, I have enjoyed quite a few free products from what is a pretty generous rewards system overall.
In locations such as Meadowhall, I find the range of high end counters and the sheer range of brands available from Liz Earle to Dyson and even Chanel to be really excellent. Compared with high end beauty halls, these counters always feel way more relaxed. It’s nice to be able to mix and match so many low and high end brands in one shop.
What’s not so hot
Whilst Boots sells a decent range of products (though, more so in the larger city centre branches) they are not competitive price wise. Let’s take this back strap from Neo G as an example, costing £38.99.
The exact same Neo G back brace is £28 on Amazon and comes with free home delivery (Boots is £3.50-£5.50 home delivery or free to store). Or, go one better and get the Amazon own version with free delivery for £7. Thankfully my back is not one of my many ailments, as my pocket would be hurting too! The same story is repeated with products such as shampoo and conditioner, only it’s the likes of Wilko, Superdrug and Savers which offer the exact same product for a fraction of the price that Boots do.
Infact, one time whilst working on the fragrance wall we were told we can offer a heavily reduced discount for the rest of the day, but only if customers come in and specifically mention they had seen it cheaper in a rival store. Who would think to say that? Get it advertised clearly already!
Image is another important factor to consider. Whilst Superdrug looks to modernise stores with a visual overhaul both in terms of the branding and instore experiences including threading and blowdrys, Boots has pretty much remained the same since the 90s. Infact, just yesterday I asked on Twitter how come my hometown store of Grimsby doesn’t have a self service checkout option. At Christmas the queues stretch the other side of the store! Who can be bothered with that?
I also find some branches a bit pointless, especially the smaller ones which have an incredibly limited amount of products for sale. The Cleethorpes branch is one such example. Infact, I have an order coming to that branch tomorrow as no store within an hours radius sells Embryolisse, despite it being one of the most popular moisturisers out there. The temptation to buy it off Cult Beauty instead is all too much.
What’s next for Boots?
Whilst we are yet to hear an official announcement about store closures, I hope Boots will dust itself off, refocus on its current market and come back stronger. After all, though it’s far from perfect it does offer customers a wide choice of pharmaceutical, health and beauty products.
I’d like to see it modernise the store experience, improve the advantage card experience but also get competitive with everyday beauty items. Whilst closing some of the dead-end stores wouldn’t be a travesty, losing the entire brand in my opinion, really would be.
Do you shop at Boots? Let me know what you think! Leave me a comment below and share your thoughts.