Baker gives retail a cutting edge

Boots’ chief executive gets tough and starts to bring retail expertise to the company

No one can accuse new Boots chief executive Richard Baker, who arrived at the helm just over a month ago from Asda, of not acting quickly enough when he restructured the management team this week.

Coming from the UK’s second-largest supermarket, he knows the true extent of the competition that Boots is up against.

Reported to be shocked by a lack of store focus at head office, he has set about making changes and is on the hunt for a retail director to help him. For Ann Francke – a packaged goods marketer who was hired by the old management regime – that was always going to spell trouble.

With Francke out of the way and Baker’s focus on the retail operation to the fore, the outcome of the £44m UK marketing services review could be very different. Francke is known to have a close relationship with Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO and was thought to have been impressed with Mother, which has an unproven track record when it comes to handling a major retailer. That leaves incumbent J Walter Thompson and Publicis. Baker worked with the latter at Asda when he was marketing director.

It remains to be seen how many more marketers will follow Francke. The marketing department is in the midst of a consultation that is likely to result in at least a third of its retail marketers being made redundant. Six months ago, Boots announced it would be making up to 500 head office redundancies in order to save £100m. Many think Baker will look at making more cuts.

Since his arrival, Baker has asked various departments to make cuts to their budgets with the aim of redirecting savings to hire extra staff for the Christmas period. He has also reportedly given store managers greater freedom over promotions, while head office employees have been ordered to spend some time in the stores.

A Boots spokesman says: “His priority is the stores, which he is visiting, and listening to what people are saying about possible changes.”

One of the greatest problems facing Boots is supermarket competition. Boots has tried to extend its business into other areas, such as its ill-fated experiments with Wellbeing services and the Pure Beauty retail format. It is now concentrating on its core health and beauty offering by trying to get customers to sample new products with its New @ Boots range, and is reverting to a focus on gifts by devoting up to ten per cent more floorspace on them.

But there is more work to be done. Richard Ratner, a retail analyst at Seymour Pierce says: “The stores are awful. Boots has underinvested in them for years and now it is paying for it.”

He believes that there are too many stores, many of which are under-performing.

Baker not only has to consider whether to offload some stores, but also what to do with Boots Healthcare International, the unit that manufactures brands such as Clearasil and Strepsils.

Whatever choice he makes, Baker will need to recruit retail experts, and where better to turn to than his former employer Asda?

Latest from Marketing Week

Get ready for Cannes 2018: Hot topics and what to see

Cannes Lions

With the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity kicking off in three days, here’s your run down of all the hot topics up for discussion at the first festival since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, Sir Martin Sorrell resigned from WPP and the #MeToo movement was born.

NOT REGISTERED? IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here