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Coronavirus: Boots to axe 4,000 staff as sales tumble

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Boots is slashing jobs. Photo: PA

The pharmacy giant Boots has announced plans to cut 4,000 jobs in the UK, after it saw sales tumble during the pandemic.

The company said the radical shakeup would see 20% of its UK workforce lose their jobs, as well as the closure of 48 Boots Opticians stores. It comes on the same day John Lewis and Burger King also announced they could make sweeping job cuts, and Rolls-Royce confirmed 3,000 staff had applied after it sought voluntary redundancies.

“Subject to labour consultation, these reorganisation actions will impact more than 4,000 positions,” said owner Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) in a statement on its third-quarter results.

The move is likely to particularly affect staff in its Nottingham support office, and some deputy and assistant manager, beauty adviser, and customer adviser roles in stores, according to PA.

Sales in Boots stores in Britain were down 48% in March, April and May compared to the previous year despite many stores remaining open.

READ MORE: John Lewis to close eight stores, risking 1300 jobs

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“Boots UK lost share in its categories, in a sharply lower market, as lockdown measures impacted high streets and shopping centers and compelled consumers to consolidate shopping into grocers.”

It said this was only partially offset by a 78% surge in sales during the pandemic.

Sebastian James, managing director of Boots UK, said: “The proposals announced today are decisive actions to accelerate our transformation plan, allow Boots to continue its vital role as part of the UK health system, and ensure profitable long-term growth.

“I am so very grateful to all our colleagues for their dedication during the last few challenging months. They have stepped forward to support their communities, our customers and the NHS during this time, and I am extremely proud to be serving alongside them.”

“We recognise that today’s proposals will be very difficult for the remarkable people who make up the heart of our business, and we will do everything in our power to provide the fullest support during this time.”