Boots axes loss-making activities

Boots Group has axed its loss-making laser eye-correction, dentistry, chiropody and laser hair-removal services as part of chief executive Richard Baker’s strategy to focus on the core retail business of Boots the Chemist.

The decision means that up to 850 people could lose their jobs. Dentistry services will close in 54 locations, laser eye clinics in nine, chiropody centres in 52 and laser hair-removal centres in 14. The cuts will not affect the profitable Boots Opticians severely, although some standalone sites may go.

In the year to March 2004, the dentistry, chiropody and laser hair-removal services clocked up sales of &£28.9m but incurred a loss of &£16.3m. Boots’ laser eye-correction service lost &£3.8m on sales of &£19.4m.

A company statement says: “Despite improvements in productivity there is no prospect of the businesses making acceptable returns for the Group.”

The move follows Baker’s decision to focus on the core chemist and health and beauty business. Last year, Boots ended its experiment with wellbeing services, closing 12 Wellbeing centres around the country and six Pure Beauty stores.

Baker has cut prices and introduced longer opening hours at Boots the Chemist, which faces harsh competition from the supermarkets. He is also experimenting with selling a broader range of merchandise online, including computers, mobile phones, and white goods. Sales at Boots the Chemist were up by 5.4 per cent (4.4 per cent like for like) in the first quarter of Boots’ 2004/2005 financial year.

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