Boots UK store sales slump 29% as pandemic keeps shoppers away

FILE PHOTO: People queue outside boots as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, York, Britain, March 31, 2020. REUTERS/Lee Smith

LONDON (Reuters) - British health and beauty retailer Boots said comparable store sales slumped 29.2% year-on-year in its latest quarter as shopper numbers were dented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boots, part of U.S. listed Walgreens Boots Alliance WBA.0, said footfall was particularly low in major high street, train station and airport locations.

Britons have remained reluctant to return to the high street even when lockdown restrictions have eased. Data published on Monday showed UK shopper numbers down 31% year-on-year.

The fourth-quarter to Aug. 31 outcome did, however, represent an improvement from the previous quarter when comparable retail sales crashed 48%.

Online sales rose 155% in the fourth quarter, up from 78% in the third.

Overall UK sales fell 16.7% in the quarter and Boots lost market share in all categories except beauty.

In July, Boots said it would cut 4,000 jobs and close 48 optician stores.

The retailer is playing a role in the UK’s COVID testing programme. Its staff have conducted over one million COVID tests.

Reporting by James Davey, Editing by Paul Sandle and Sarah Young