Boots records drop in third-quarter high street sales

Sales at Boots dropped in the third quarter, the chemist chain’s owner has said.

American parent Walgreens Boots Alliance reported that its international sales were down 1.6% in the three months to May 31, mostly due to a 1% decline at Boots UK.

Comparable pharmacy sales at the high street chain were up 0.8% in the period, but retail sales dropped 2.6%

It comes as the retail stalwart grapples with tough market conditions both in the UK and elsewhere in the world.

In April, Boots said it would review its near 2,500-strong store estate as it looks to cut costs.

It comes on the same day Boots opened a “store of the future” in London’s Covent Garden, which features new beauty brands and express pick-up lanes for prescriptions.

Overall, the Walgreens Boots Alliance’s sales in the quarter increased 0.7% to 34.6 billion US dollars (£27.24 billion).

In the US, sales were up 2.3% to 26.5 billion dollars (£20.86 billion) due to an increase in pharmacy sales.

But profits were down due to the issues in the UK, as well as lower US pharmacy margins and retail sales.

Adjusted operating income dropped 11.7% to 1.7 billion US dollars, while earnings per share were down 16.5% to 1.13 dollars (89p).

When the expense of the company’s cost management programme is included, operating income fell 24.7% to 1.2 billion dollars (£940 million).

Stefano Pessina, executive vice chairman and CEO, said the transformation plans were already paying off.

“Following a difficult second quarter, we made progress in the third quarter against the strategic goals we set, and are pleased to report an improvement in our US comparable growth compared with the first half of the year,” he said.

“We will continue our aggressive response to rapidly shifting trends, and have already seen improved US retail sales and prescription growth and are making good progress in implementing our transformational cost management programme.

“Together, this gives us the confidence to reiterate the fiscal 2019 guidance we previously provided.”

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