Booming beauty sales help Boots bounce back from the pandemic

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Booming demand for beauty products helps Boots bounce back from the pandemic

Booming demand for beauty products is helping Boots bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the bidding war for the chemist enters its final stages, the company said sales in the three months to February 28 jumped 15 per cent from a year earlier.

Since the easing of restrictions shoppers have flooded back to stores, with footfall 52 per cent higher between December and February than a year earlier. In-store sales for the quarter were up 22 per cent.

Bustling trade: Footfall at Boots stores was 52% higher between December and February than a year earlier. In store sales for the quarter were up 22%

Bustling trade: Footfall at Boots stores was 52% higher between December and February than a year earlier. In store sales for the quarter were up 22%

And despite stores remaining open through the pandemic, its online sales have more than doubled and now account for over 15 per cent of revenue.

Chief executive Sebastian James said: ‘Boots delivered another solid performance this quarter, with sustained retail and pharmacy sales growth and market share gains across all categories. 

‘Our strategic focus continues to be on transforming our beauty, healthcare and digital offerings and this quarter we made excellent progress.’

Boots is the UK’s biggest High Street chemist and played a key role in the UK’s Covid response, administering more than 4.7m tests and 1.6m vaccines.

The business is also the country’s biggest seller of skincare and beauty products, with 40 per cent of all sales.

But it struggled through the pandemic, racking up huge losses and cutting thousands of jobs.

Boots was founded in Nottingham by Quaker John Boot in 1849, selling herbal remedies, and now has 2,263 stores and 54,000 staff.

Owner, the US giant Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) run by Italian dealmaker Stefano Pessina, put Boots up for sale in January, triggering a bidding war.

WBA flirted with a potential listing for the business, which could have seen it return to the London Stock Exchange after 15 years. 

But it dropped the idea after interest from a slew of deep-pocketed private equity firms, with four still in the running to take over the chemist.

They include US-based Sycamore Capital Partners and Apollo Global Management as well as an unnamed rival. 

The billionaire Issa brothers –who are backed by TDR Capital and bought Asda in 2020 for £6.8billion – are also in the running to buy Boots.

Mohsin and Zuber Issa want to combine the group with Asda’s portfolio of stores that already operate some pharmacies.

Meanwhile, Sycamore and Apollo are understood to have outlined their visions for the chemist in presentations to Boots’s management team.

Bidders who have fallen by the wayside include Bain Capital, who were tipped as early favourites when Boots was put up for sale. 

They joined forces with private equity house CVC Capital Partners but the consortium is thought to have been put off by the price. They declined to put in an initial offer but are thought to be still circling in case the price drops.

Bidders are expected to submit final offers for the business around Easter and it’s thought indicative offers have so far valued the chain above £6billion.

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