Beauty halls and flu vaccinations drive Boots’ continued COVID-19 recovery, says GlobalData

Following today’s release of Boots UK’s figures for Q1 FY2021/22; Juliet Cuell, associate retail analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers her view: “Boots has continued to make steps toward reviving its business as the UK recovers from the pandemic, with the health & beauty specialist reporting retail sales growth of 16.3% in Q1 FY2021/22. Despite the fact that footfall remained approximately 20% below pre-pandemic levels, with COVID-19 cases on the rise again during this period, Boots has done well to transfer spend back to stores, bolstered by the opening of 27 new beauty halls in regional locations. This will ensure it builds a consistent customer experience across its store estate, in line with the level of service at its flagship store in Covent Garden that offers make-up masterclass events and wellness information sessions.

“Boots was also able to capitalise on consumers bringing Christmas spend forward this year, given its gifting appeal, with additional space allocated to gift sets and stocking fillers in its stores. According to GlobalData Retail’s Christmas Intentions 2021 survey, 71.0% of shoppers started their Christmas shopping earlier in 2021, up 3.8 ppts on 2020, as many were concerned about supply chain issues impacting stock availability.

“While the 8.8% growth in the retailer’s comparable pharmacy sales in Q1 was weaker than the previous quarter (+11.4%), this deceleration could have been worse had it not been for Boots delivering two million flu vaccinations during the period. Although Boots has focused on boosting awareness of its Boots Health Club initiative, accessible via Boots.com, it should develop this further by including a dedicated Health Club section on its home page to improve accessibility for consumers.

“Q1 FY2021/22 Boots.com sales remained lower than Q1 FY2020/21, as there has been an inevitable shift back to shopping instore as consumer confidence has grown following vaccinations. However, online sales were almost double levels from Q1 FY2019/20, owing to shoppers’ continued preference for ultra-convenient fulfilment options. Its online success has been aided by its partnership with Deliveroo across 14 stores to offer rapid delivery, which has allowed it to compete with the increasing number of grocers offering this service on their health & beauty products. To maintain strong Boots.com sales, the retailer should further invest in its digital offer by incorporating an Instagram shop on its website and offering a more interactive customer experience, to make it more competitive with online pureplays such as Feelunique.”