Boots UK

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Boots UK Ltd
Formerly called
Boots the Chemists
Boots Cash Chemists
Industry Pharmaceuticals
Founded 1849; 169 years ago (1849), Nottingham, United Kingdom
Founder John Boot
Headquarters Beeston, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Area served
Key people
Elizabeth Fagan, Managing Director, Boots UK and ROI (since July 2016)
Brands No. 7 , natural collection and Seventeen – Makeup
Soltan – Sun cream
Almus – Generic drugs
Number of employees
70,000 (UK)
1,900 (Ireland)
Parent Walgreens Boots Alliance
Subsidiaries Boots Opticians
Boots Retail Ireland

Boots UK[1] (formerly Boots the Chemists Ltd), trading as Boots, is a pharmacy chain in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Thailand and other territories. The parent company,[2] The Boots Company Plc, merged with Alliance UniChem in 2006 to form Alliance Boots.[3] In 2007, Alliance Boots was bought by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Stefano Pessina, taking the company private, and moving its headquarters to Switzerland, the first ever FTSE 100 company bought by a private equity firm. In 2012, Walgreens bought a 45% stake in Alliance Boots, with the option to buy the rest within three years. It exercised this option in 2014, and as a result Boots became a subsidiary of the new company, Walgreens Boots Alliance, on 31 December 2014.

The company operates over 2,500 stores across the United Kingdom and Ireland ranging from local pharmacies to large health and beauty stores.[4] Their stores are primarily located on the high streets and in shopping centres. It sells many health and beauty products, and also provides optician and hearing care services within stores and as standalone practices. Boots also operates a retail website and runs a loyalty card programme called the Boots Advantage Card.


1849 to 2000

An advertisement for Boots from 1911

Boots was established in 1849, by John Boot. After his father's death in 1860, Jesse Boot, aged 10, helped his mother run the family's herbal medicine shop in Nottingham,[5] which was incorporated as Boot and Co. Ltd in 1883, becoming Boots Pure Drug Company Ltd in 1888. In 1920, Jesse Boot sold the company to the American United Drug Company.[6] However, because of deteriorating economic circumstances in North America Boots was sold back into British hands in 1933.[6] The grandson of the founder, John Boot, who inherited the title Baron Trent from his father, headed the company.[7] The Boots Pure Drug Company name was changed to The Boots Company Limited in 1971.

Boots diversified into the research and manufacturing of drugs with its development of the Ibuprofen painkiller during the 1960s, invented by John Nicholson and Stewart Adams. The company was awarded the Queen's Award For Technical Achievement for this in 1987. A major research focus of Boots in the 1980s was the drug for congestive heart failure Manoplax. [8] The withdrawal from market of Manoplax due to safety concerns in 1993 caused major pressure from investors, and in 1994, Boots divested its prescription drugs division, which had become no longer viable, to BASF.[9][10] In 2006, it sold the Nurofen brand to Reckitt Benckiser.[11] The 2006 sale of Boots Healthcare International included everything made by Crookes Healthcare, based on the Nottingham site.

In 1968 Boots acquired the 622-strong Timothy Whites and Taylors Ltd chain.[6] Boots expanded into Canada by purchasing the Tamblyn Drugs chain circa 1978. Most Canadian Boots stores were converted to Pharma Plus in 1989, although a handful of locations remained as late as 1993, if not later.[citation needed] In 1982, the company opened a new manufacturing plant in Cramlington, Northumberland.[6] In the early 1990s, Boots began to diversify and bought Halfords, the bicycle and car parts business in 1991.[12] It also developed the Children's World business but sold it in 1996 to Mothercare.[13] Halfords was sold in 2002.[14]

Boots Opticians Ltd was formed in 1987 with the acquisition of Clement Clarke Ltd and Curry and Paxton Ltd. Boots Opticians became the UK's second largest retail optics chain. In 2009 Boots Opticians acquired Dollond & Aitchison, an optician chain which was founded in 1750.

Boots diversified into dentistry in 1998, with a number of stores offering this service.[15] Boots sold its Do-It-All home furnishings chain to Focus in 1998.[16] Boots also made a venture into "Wellbeing" services offering customers treatments ranging from facials, homoeopathy, and nutritional advice to laser eye surgery and Botox but these services were abandoned in 2003, despite a launch that included a dedicated Freeview and Sky TV channel of the same name, and even redirecting web traffic from to[17]

2000 to present

Boots branch in Yorkshire
Boots branch in Belfast

In late 2004, Boots sold its laser eye surgery business to Optical Express.[18]

In October 2005, a merger with Alliance UniChem was announced by the then chairman, Sir Nigel Rudd. The CEO Richard Baker left, and the new group became Alliance Boots plc. The merger became effective on 31 July 2006.[19]

Alliance Boots was purchased by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Stefano Pessina, the deputy chairman of the company, in April 2007 for £11.1 billion, taking the company private and beating a rival bid from Guy Hands' Terra Firma Capital Partners.[20] This was the first ever instance of a FTSE 100 company having been bought by a private equity firm.[21] In June 2008, the group headquarters were moved to Zug, Switzerland. According to John Ralfe, Boots' former head of corporate finance, "the UK has lost about £100m a year in tax as result".[22]

'Boots the Chemists Limited' was re-registered under the name 'Boots UK Limited' on 1 October 2007.[23] Management of all staff was moved to Boots Management Services Limited on 1 July 2010.[24]

On 19 June 2012, it was announced that Walgreens, the United States' largest drug store chain, would purchase a 45% stake in Alliance Boots for US$6.7 billion. The deal was said to be a long term plan to give maximum exposure to both brands, Boots more so in the US and, Walgreens more so in the UK and in China through Boots' presence in that market. The deal gave the option to complete a full merger of the organisations within three years costing an extra $9.5bn.[25] Walgreens confirmed on 6 August 2014 that it would purchase the remaining 55% and merge with Alliance Boots to form a new holding company, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.[26] Walgreens and Boots both become subsidiaries of the new company on 31 December 2014.


Boots sells medicines, health and beauty products. It has a food and drink range in the form of lunchtime meal deals.[27]


Charging the NHS for carrying out unnecessary medicine reviews

In April 2016, the Pharmacists' Defence Association stated that company managers were exploiting the NHS by insisting that each outlet carry out medicine use reviews, even if patients didn’t need them. The NHS pays £28 per review up to a maximum of 400 per store.[28] The Guardian stated that the General Pharmaceutical Council was poised to investigate.[29] The paper subsequently noted a letter purporting to be from an "independent pharmacist" criticising its stance on the issue which it identified as coming from one of the firm's vice presidents.[30]
Following the Guardian reports, Boots announced the departure of UK operations director, Simon Roberts, in June 2016.[31]

Working Conditions

Press Reports in 2016

At the same time as the article about medicines reviews, The Guardian published a longer report on the same day called 'How Boots went Rogue', which told the story from the eyes of a Boots pharmacist talking about working conditions at the company. It also covered the buyout of the company and the owners' financial approach.[32] Four days later it published an articles with emails from pharmacists. Pharmacists had written about how "the chain allegedly compels staff to compromise ethics for targets". The article said "The letters editor believes this may be the largest haul of mail he has ever received about a single article. Others rang in."[33] There were two further follow-up articles in the days following.[34][35] The paper subsequently noted a letter purporting to be from an "independent pharmacist" criticising its stance on the issue which it identified as having been edited and amended by one of the firm's vice presidents. The letter was emailed as a Word document and contained tracked changes.[36]

The Guardian stated that the General Pharmaceutical Council was poised to investigate.[37]

Following the Guardian reports in 2016, Boots announced the departure of UK operations director, Simon Roberts, in June 2016.[38][39]

BBC Documentary in 2018

On 8 January 2018, the BBC showed a documentary called "Boots: Pharmacists under Pressure?" about the deaths of three patients following dispensing errors. It also featured accounts from three whistleblowers, who alleged that there were staffing issues at the company.[40] The BBC also published two articles on the same day.[41][42] A further article almost three weeks later told the story of a patient who was given the wrong medicine in December 2017 by a "frazzled" pharmacist. The patient said there was clearly a staffing issue.[43]

Dispensing of the "morning after pill"

In July 2017, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) revealed that Boots was selling emergency contraceptive medication at four times cost price and had refused requests to join rival pharmacy retail chains, including Superdrug and Tesco, which had agreed to cease profiting financially in this way.[44] In a written response to BPAS, Boots revealed that they were frequently contacted by individuals who disapproved of the dispensing of such medication, which might be viewed as "incentivising inappropriate use",[45][46] an assertion which campaigners described as "insulting and sexist".[47] BPAS called on the public to boycott the company and email them requesting that they reverse the policy. Following the boycott's launch, lawyers representing Boots alleged that the online complaint form created by BPAS had resulted in a "torrent of abuse" to five of Boots' senior managers and that BPAS had facilitated and tacitly encouraged harassment by naming individual staff members on the form. In response, BPAS stated that Boots had "failed to provide any evidence of abuse sent through the campaign".[48] In November 2017, more than 130 Labour politicians signed a letter criticising Boots' failure to fulfill its promise to stock a low-cost alternative in its stores by October:[49] at the end of January 2018, Boots confirmed that it was now offering the cheaper medication in all its pharmacies.[50]

Pharmacist Suicide

On 25 October 2017, a debate was held in the House of Commons about the suicide of a Boots pharmacist, Alison Stamps, in May 2015. The support that employers give to employees (and specifically pharmacists) with mental health issues was discussed, and Boots' response was criticized. [51]

Overcharging the NHS for products

In 2018, Boots was criticised for charging excessive prices for low-value products supplied to the NHS: in one case, it was found that the pharmacy was billing in excess of £1,500 for a moisturiser which normally retailed at less than £2.[52]

The Boots Charitable Trust

The company funds the Boots Charitable Trust, which is an independent registered charity in the UK, administrated by Nottinghamshire Community Foundation. The trust was established in the early 1970s to fund registered charities benefiting people who live in Nottinghamshire.[53]

D6 building in Beeston

The Boots Estate

The Boots Estate, near the Nottingham suburb of Beeston, features a range of listed buildings. This includes the two principal factory buildings, D6 and D10, designed by Sir Owen Williams and built in 1932 and 1935–38 respectively. Both are Grade I listed.[54][55] The former fire station, D34, is also by Williams and is Grade II listed. The headquarters office building known as D90 is Grade II* and was built to designs by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1966–68.[56] Staff have a restaurant, coffee and snack shops, newsagent, a branch of Boots the Chemist, an opticians branch and cash point situated within landscaped grounds. The grounds include the Millennium Garden, which features a herb garden (with some plants that Jesse used in his original herbal remedies) in the shape of a goose foot – harking back to Jesse's original shop on Goose Gate, Nottingham.

The Boots Museum is now closed; however, historical items are in storage or on display in the reception area of the D90 building.

See also


  1. ^ Boots UK Limited. "Boots UK". Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  2. ^ Memorandum and Articles of Association[dead link] Reprint with all current amendments as at 26 July 2001
  3. ^ "Alliance UniChem Plc and Boots Group PLC merger archive | Walgreens Boots Alliance". Retrieved 28 December 2015. 
  4. ^ "Boots UK - Welcome to Boots UK". 
  5. ^ Viceira, L. M., & Mitusui, A. M. (2003) Pension Policy at The Boots Company PLC, Harvard Business Review, Havard Business School, 27 August 2003
  6. ^ a b c d "Boots Learning Store". Boots Learning Store. 4 December 1999. 
  7. ^ 'Interwar retail internationalization: Boots under American ownership', The International Review of Retail Distribution and Consumer Research, 7(2), 1997
  8. ^ "Manoplax: from heart to heartbreak: With millions lost on its 'wonder". The Independent. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  9. ^ "Boots is pacesetter for drug chains in the UK". 
  10. ^ "COMPANY NEWS; Boots Pharmaceuticals Unit To Go to BASF of Germany". The New York Times. 15 November 1994. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  11. ^ Boots sells Nurofen in £1.9bn deal The Telegraph
  12. ^ And it's all thanks to a passion for a penny-farthing bicycle The Times
  13. ^ Boots in Childrenswear pact to sell Adams range The Telegraph
  14. ^ Boots sells Halfords The Guardian
  15. ^ "Boots to launch dental clinics". BBC News. 10 September 1998. 
  16. ^ Gilleo, Ken. "Boots decides that for £68m Focus can do-it-all". 
  17. ^ Boots ditches well being strategy The Independent
  18. ^ Optical Express buys Boots laser business Optician Online
  19. ^ "Boots announces £7bn merger deal". BBC News. 3 October 2005. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  20. ^ Craven, Neil (24 April 2007). "KKR Agrees to Buy Alliance Boots, Beating Guy Hands". Bloomberg. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  21. ^ "Alliance Boots takeover approved". BBC. 31 May 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  22. ^ Lawrence, Felicity (11 December 2010). "How Boots' Swiss move cost UK£100m a year". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  23. ^ "BOOTS UK LIMITED - Overview (free company information from Companies House)". Retrieved 28 December 2015. 
  24. ^ "Kanayati AND BOOTS". Retrieved 28 December 2015. 
  25. ^ Harry Wallop (19 June 2012). "Alliance Boots sells 45pc stake to Walgreens". The Telegraph. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  26. ^ "Walgreens to buy up Alliance Boots". BBC News. 6 August 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  27. ^ Hickey, Shane (27 June 2015). "Do supermarket meal deals cut the mustard?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 14 April 2016. 
  28. ^ Aditya Chakrabortty (13 April 2016). "Boots staff under pressure to milk the NHS for cash, says pharmacists' union". Guardian newspapers. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  29. ^ Chakrabortty, Aditya (17 April 2016). "Boots could face regulator's investigation after Guardian report". Guardian newspapers. Retrieved 17 April 2016. 
  30. ^ "'Independent' pharmacist's letter edited by Boots' owner". The Guardian. 29 April 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2016. 
  31. ^ Zoe Wood (9 June 2016). "Boots UK boss Simon Roberts quits". Guardian newspapers. Retrieved 9 June 2016. 
  32. ^ "'How Boots went Rogue'". The Guardian. 13 April 2016. 
  33. ^ "Yours, a stressed pharmacist: Boots article prompts flood of letters". The Guardian. 17 April 2016. 
  34. ^ "The Guardian view on Boots: sick staff, a healthcare business and the public purse". The Guardian. 19 April 2016. 
  35. ^ "BHS, Boots … our misbehaving corporations need their wings clipped". The Guardian. 27 April 2016. 
  36. ^ "'Independent' pharmacist's letter edited by Boots' owner". The Guardian. 29 April 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2016. 
  37. ^ Chakrabortty, Aditya (17 April 2016). "Boots could face regulator's investigation after Guardian report". Guardian newspapers. Retrieved 17 April 2016. 
  38. ^ Zoe Wood (9 June 2016). "Boots UK boss Simon Roberts quits". Guardian newspapers. Retrieved 9 June 2016. 
  39. ^ "New Boots boss offers chance to change". Guardian newspapers. 9 June 2016. 
  40. ^ "Boots: Pharmacists under Pressure?". The BBC. 8 January 2018. 
  41. ^ "Some Boots pharmacists claim they are at 'breaking point'". The BBC. 8 January 2018. 
  42. ^ "Boots pharmacists raise staffing concerns". The BBC. 8 January 2018. 
  43. ^ "'Frazzled' Boots pharmacist mixed up patient's pills". The BBC. 27 January 2018. 
  44. ^ "Just Say Non". British Pregnancy Advisory Service website. Retrieved 21 July 2017. 
  45. ^ Bates, Laura (20 July 2017). "Boots is charging women high rates for the morning after pill because they think we might use it 'inappropriately' if it's cheap". The Independent. 
  46. ^ "Boots faces morning-after pill cost row". BBC News. 21 July 2017. 
  47. ^ Slawson, Nicola (20 July 2017). "Boots faces boycott over refusal to lower cost of morning-after pill". The Guardian. 
  48. ^ "Boots staff 'harassed' by morning-after pill campaigners". BBC News. 1 September 2017. 
  49. ^ "Boots 'breaking' morning-after pill promise, say Labour MPs". BBC News. 16 November 2017. 
  50. ^ "Boots rolls out cheaper morning-after pill across UK". BBC News. 29 January 2018. 
  51. ^ "Mental Health: Pharmacists - House of Commons Debate". 25 October 2017. 
  52. ^ Morgan-Bentley, Paul (2 February 2018). "NHS forced to pay £1,500 for £2 pot of moisturiser". The Times. (subscription required)
  53. ^ "Charitable giving". Boots UK. 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  54. ^ "Building D6 at Boots Factory Site". Historic England. Retrieved 6 February 2018. 
  55. ^ "Building D10 at Boots Factory Site". Historic England. Retrieved 6 February 2018. 
  56. ^ "BOOTS D90 WEST HEADQUARTERS BUILDING". Historic England. Retrieved 6 February 2018. 

Further reading

  • Roberts, Cecil (1966) Achievement: a record of fifty years' progress of Boots Pure Drug Company Ltd London: Boots Pure Drug Company Ltd

External links

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