Boots admits to 300 head office job losses

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The Independent Online
BOOTS the Chemists is expected to cut at least 300 jobs at its Nottingham headquarters, amid suggestions that customer footfall in its stores is falling and sales last year were below budget.

The job loss figure contradicts statements made by Boots at its annual results presentation last week, when it painted an upbeat picture of the core chain's prospects. The company said it would only cut about 100 jobs as it moves from half a dozen sites around Nottingham to a purpose-built office by September. The business employs 2,500 workers in the city.

But Boots conceded yesterday that 300 head office jobs could go, although it dismissed suggestions that the final redundancy total could be much higher. "We would not challenge a figure of 300," a spokesman said.

Boots refused to comment on suggestions from company insiders that customer footfall in the chemists' operation is down. But City analysts say Boots' customer traffic could well be drifting lower as the major supermarkets muscle in on Boots' core territory of health and beauty products and toiletries. "This is why Boots is moving increasingly to out-of-town locations," an analyst said. "In some places people have just given up going to the high street."

Boots the Chemists' underlying sales were up 2.6 per cent last year, according to the company's results. It said sales in bathcare and skincare were up strongly, with market share up in skincare and dental products.

However, the market is becoming more competitive. Tesco and Asda continue to attack the sector with low-price offers. Meanwhile Superdrug is increasing its number of pharmacies and upgrading stores.

Boots also declined to comment on suggestions that sales at the chemists' business were pounds 12m below budget last year. "That is market-sensitive information," the group said.

Analysts believe Boots is a strong, well-managed business but say rivals have turned up the heat. "The business has broken sweat," one said.

They estimate that the 300 job losses could cut head office costs by pounds 7.5m a year.