June 28, 2019 / 1:54 PM / 2 months ago

UK health and beauty retailer Boots to close 200 stores

LONDON, June 28 (Reuters) - British health and beauty retailer Boots said it plans to close about 200 stores, mainly local pharmacies, over the next 18 months.

A raft of British store groups including Marks & Spencer and Debenhams, have announced plans to close shops as they struggle with subdued consumer spending, rising labour costs and business property taxes, and growing online competition.

Boots, part of U.S.-listed Walgreens Boots Alliance, said its planned closures would be at locations where it has several others nearby.

“We believe this is the right thing to do as it means that we can invest more in staffing those stores while not reducing our 90% coverage within a 10-minute drive of a Boots,” managing director Seb James said in a statement on Friday.

He said an overwhelming majority of affected staff would be redeployed to neighbouring stores.

Boots currently trades from about 2,500 UK sites comprising around 500 large retail stores and the rest smaller community pharmacies. It said the revenue impact of the closures would be about 1%.

On Thursday, the group reported a 2.6% fall in third quarter comparative retail sales, though it gained market share in a weak market. It said comparative pharmacy sales increased 0.8%.

On Wednesday, James cautioned that “storm clouds are gathering” over the UK economy. (Reporting by James Davey; editing by Stephen Addison)

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