Boots owner beats forecasts on strong UK pharmacy and optician trading

Boots owner Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) has said first quarter trading surpassed expectations after it was buoyed by its UK pharmacy and optician businesses.

The US-based group revealed that sales increased by 5.7% to 36.3 billion dollars (£26.7 billion) over the three month period, while earnings decreased by 11.2%, ahead of expectations.

It said Boots UK saw total sales fall by 11.5% after it was impacted by coronavirus disruptions and temporary closures.

But like-for-like pharmacy sales for the quarter increased by 2.5% as NHS reimbursement mitigated the impact of lower sales volumes.

WBA also added that the business performed “very strongly” during the period, with sales up 106% against the same period last year.

Boots, which cut around 4,000 jobs in July, said its high street retail business was particularly impacted by the pandemic, reporting a 9.1% fall in like-for-like retail sales.

It said its airport and train station sites saw a notable slump in trading following the pandemic.

The trading update came a day after WBA announced the £4.8 billion sale of a majority stake in its Alliance Healthcare wholesale and distribution business.

Stefano Pessina, executive vice chairman and chief executive officer of WBA, said: “Our first quarter results exceeded expectations as we continue to deliver on our strategic priorities.

“While the business environment remains challenging, we are rising to the occasion with agility and discipline and we are confident in our outlook for adjusted EPS (earnings per share) for the fiscal year.

“Our role in the healthcare system has never been more important, as the communities we serve continue to turn to our trusted brands and expert pharmacists.

“I am so proud of our teams and the historic and critical role they are playing to help the world emerge from the pandemic, administering Covid-19 vaccinations to frontline healthcare workers and vulnerable members of our society.”

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