British retailer Boots to cut 4,000 jobs

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LONDON (Reuters) - Health and beauty retailer Boots, one of the best-known names on Britain’s shopping streets, plans to cut 4,000 jobs and close 48 optician stores, in the latest major blow to the country’s retail sector from the COVID-19 crisis.

British brands ranging from John Lewis to Topshop to Harrods have announced thousands of job cuts in the last two weeks after the pandemic forced customers to shop online and many remained reluctant to return to the high street even as lockdown restrictions eased.

Walgreens Boots Alliance WBA.O, the U.S.-listed owner of the retailer, said on Thursday its most significant COVID-19 impact had come in Britain, with footfall down 85% in April and Boots UK recording a third-quarter operating loss.

Reflecting this and ongoing uncertainty at Boots UK related to the pandemic the parent booked an impairment charge of $2 billion.

Walgreens said the Boots UK store closures and job cuts, which include a 20% headcount reduction at its support office, accelerated a restructuring already in train.

The group said the total adverse impact of COVID-19 on sales in the quarter was $700 to $750 million.

Reporting by Kate Holton and James Davey, Editing by Paul Sandle