Boots may close over 200 shops after warning that crippling business rates are piling pressure on the high street.
The chemist has placed the stores ‘under review’ with insiders saying a large number are likely to shut.
The news comes just days after the company’s boss called on ministers to reform ‘unfair’ business rates.
Boots is one of Britain’s largest retailers, with about 2,500 shops and 56,000 staff. Its business rates bill was £144million in 2018 on sales of £6.8billion.
200 Boots stores across the UK have been placed under review. Some 60,000 staff are employed by the company
By contrast, web behemoth Amazon paid just £63.4million on sales of £11.5billion.
The Daily Mail has called on the Government to strike a fairer balance between physical and online shops with our Save Our High Streets campaign.
Boots joined other big companies to urge ministers to reform the system after a ‘bloodbath’ of shop closures last year saw 93,000 jobs lost.
The chemist is owned by the US group Walgreens Boots Alliance. The shops under threat are in areas where Boots has more than one store – or has leases about to expire.
The review, thought to affect more than 200 shops, is set to last 12 to 18 months.
Walgreens Boots Alliance was formed from a major merger five years ago between Walgreens and Boots Alliance. Boots itself was founded in 1849
Boots boss Sebastian James told MPs on the Treasury Select Committee last week that business rates – based on how much a company’s properties are worth – were ‘a real problem’.
Which restaurants are closing amid the high street bloodbath?
Jamie Oliver’s chains last week became the latest casualties among the bloodbath sweeping the British high street, with 22 of 25 restaurants closing with immediate effect.
Dining chains Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner revealed in March that their owner plans to close a third of the brand’s sites.
Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) announced that a total of 27 out of its 87 restaurants would close. It bought Giraffe from Tesco in 2016 and combined it with Ed’s Easy Diner after acquiring the chain that same year.
Giraffe (pictured) is among the casualties of the bloodbath sweeping the British high street
Last year, several casual dining brands closed sites amid rising costs and tougher competition.
Prezzo, Byron, Carluccio’s, Gaucho and Gourmet Burger Kitchen all shut branches.
In November, creditors of Gourmet Burger Kitchen approved a plan to close 17 of the premium burger chain’s restaurants, putting around 250 jobs at risk.
Also in 2018, Prezzo announced that 94 of its 300 outlets will close.
His appearance came as several well-known retailers prepare to close shops this year, including Debenhams, New Look and Sir Philip Green’s Topshop.
Mr James said: ‘We do not have to look very far to see that some names that have been on the high street for decades – if not hundreds of years – are closing their doors, going into administration…and most of them will cite property costs.’
Mr James also revealed Boots had lodged appeals against business rate bills nine years ago – but had yet to receive any rulings from the Government.
He said the current rates system should be replaced with a levy on sales reported by retailers, echoing a proposal made by Tesco boss Dave Lewis.
Speaking to MPs alongside Mr James, John Lewis property boss Chris Harris added: ‘There needs to be action now. There has been an unprecedented change in the high street very recently and the business rates system is cumbersome and slow to react to that.’
Helen Dickinson, of the British Retail Consortium, said yesterday: ‘Our business rates system imposes huge costs on firms regardless of whether they are in profit or in loss. This is neither fair nor sustainable.’
Chancellor Philip Hammond last year announced £900million worth of business rates relief but this has been dismissed by critics as ‘tinkering around the edges’.
Last night a Boots spokesman said: ‘We currently do not have a major [closures] programme envisaged but, as you’d expect, we always review under-performing stores and seek out opportunities for consolidation.
‘We are being realistic about the future and the fact that we will need to be agile to adapt to the changing landscape.’
WH Smith has been named the worst chain on the high street yet again.
It finished bottom of a survey by consumer group Which? – and has now been in the bottom two for nine years in a row. Richer Sounds came top.
The chain’s American parent, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), warned it had suffered its ‘most difficult quarter’ since its formation
Bloodbath on the High Street: How shops went from bustling to bust
2018 saw one of the worst years for the UK High Street with retailers shutting their doors and plaguing homes across the country with many job losses.
Crisis hit brands such as House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer fought to keep stores open while other retailers such as New Look pushed for a solution to stop store closures and job losses.
In 2018 nearly 85,000 retail jobs were lost in the UK as businesses continued to go bust as 1,000 retail business went into administration between January and September.
As well as this the number of retail outlets left empty was up by 4,400 in 2018 according to data from the Local Data Company.
High Street giant Gap has also announced it will close 230 stores worldwide as its US parent company launches a massive restructuring programme.
The pressure on High Street retailers has hit an all-time high as they continue to try and keep up with the ever growing popularity of online shopping.
Online retailers are able to keep prices low as they don’t face the massive rental costs of physical stores or the staff rates.
While retailers battle the rise in online shopping they are also being forced to battle Brexit, as many supply chain routes and whether or not they will be available in a no-deal scenario have put added cost worries onto retailers as many consider stock piling their items or not importing them at all.
Here are some of the big name retailers which have lost out as they face fierce competition from the rise of online shopping
The carpet retailer is closing 92 stores across the UK. These closures represent nearly a quarter of all UK Carpetright stores.
Toys R’ Us
The UK’s largest toy shop went into administration in February 2018, leading to an estimated 2,000 redundancies.
House of Fraser
The department store chain was on the verge of heading into administration but was rescued at the eleventh hour by Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley.
The electronics giant has gone bust, closing shops across the country and putting thousands of jobs at risk.
The baby and toddler chain is closing 60 shops across the UK putting up to 900 jobs at risk.
Poundworld announced it was going into administration on June 11 after talks with potential buyer R Capital broke down, putting 5,100 jobs at risk.
The DIY chain set to close 42 DIY outlets shut, putting around 1,500 jobs at risk.
Marks & Spencer
The retailer announced in May it plans to close 100 stores by 2022, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.
In August stores in Northampton, Falkirk, Kettering, Newmarket, New Mersey Speke, Stockton and Walsall all ceased trading.
Orla Kiely, the Irish fashion retailer collapsed in September and closed all its stores after a slump in profits.
In December HMV entered into administration with its flagship London Oxford Street having closed earlier this year.
Fashion brand L.K Bennett announced it was filing for administration on March 1, 2019. Linda Bennett sent employees an email early in the morning to inform them of the news before it hit news outlets.
From humble herbalist to World War One aspirin pioneer – how Boots the Chemist became High Street giant
Jesse Boot was made a partner in his father’s firm after leaving school at the age of 13. He joined his mother in running and expanding the family business
1849: John Boot opened the first herbalist store in Nottingham offering an affordable alternative to traditional medicines. The Thomsonian system of healthcare, first developed in the US, appealed to the devoutly religious John, as it offered a practical approach to enable the poorest to help themselves
1870: John’s widow, Mary Boot, and son, Jesse began trading as M & J Boot, Herbalists after Jesse left school at the age of 13. The sale of herbs was a big feature and included roots, plants, and flowers collected locally, dried on the parlour walls at the back of the shop and then powdered
1877: Jesse took sole control of the business and launched the campaign ‘health for a shilling’ offering traditional medicines at greatly reduced prices
1884: Jesse Boot appointed his first qualified pharmacist, Edwin Waring. His dispensing services were offered at half the price charged by the other chemists in Nottingham
1885: Early manufacturing took place in a small cottage close to the store in Nottingham, before expanding to a factory. Within a few years Boots had taken over the entire factory and acquired further properties nearby
1892: A flagship department style store was opened in Pelham Street, Nottingham with products available from the dispensary, perfumery and stationery on the ground floor to pictures, glass and fancy goods upstairs. The store ‘took the public fancy amazingly’ and became the model for future Boots stores
1915: During WW1 Britain lost its supply of chemicals from Germany. Jesse brought together a team of experts to begin the research and manufacture of key synthetic chemicals such as aspirin. Boots claimed that their aspirin was the ‘purest on the market’. The company was soon supplying the British Government with medicines for field hospitals
1935: The original ‘Number Seven’ range was the company’s answer to providing a prestigious but affordable beauty range
1939: The launch of Soltan addressed customers’ desire for a non-greasy lotion. The summer of 1939 helped to make the brand an instant success
1951: Boots became the first UK chemist store to introduce self-service stores. Boots opened its first self service store at Burnt Oak, Edgware in London
1983: Boots trialled its first optical in-store practice in Nottingham and followed it with six further practices in the following year
1985: Boots received the Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement for the discovery and development of ibuprofen
1987: Boots Opticians was formed. The first free standing Boots Opticians practice opened in September 1987, in Durham
2009: Merger of Boots Opticians and Dollond & Aitchison to form the second largest optical chain in the UK. Launch of BootsWebMD.com offering customers a health and wellness information portal. Launch of No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Beauty Serum
2010: Boots brands were sold directly to third party retailers in the US and other countries. Boots Pharmaceuticals launched
2012: American drug store chain Walgreens acquired a 45% stake in Alliance Boots
2014: Walgreens Boots Alliance was created through the combination of Walgreens and Alliance Boots