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High street giant Boots 'pondering store closure programme'

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Another of the UK high street's biggest names could be about to slash its network of stores.

Reports this afternoon suggest that the owners of Boots are looking into the possibility of shutting up to 200 of their stores across the country.

Boots (11314509)
Boots (11314509)

The company currently runs two stores and an opticians in Lynn, as well as branches in Downham, Dersingham, Heacham, Fakenham and Swaffham.

Officials are playing down the reports, but warn the company will need to be "agile" in order to meet future market challenges.

A spokesman said: “We currently do not have a major programme envisaged, but as you'd expect we always review underperforming stores and seek out opportunities for consolidation.

"As is natural with a business of our size, we have stores opening, closing and relocating on a regular basis, but we have had around 2,500 stores open for several years now.

"In fact we’re investing in our stores – last year, we completed a huge merchandising project to update our self-selection cosmetics areas in 2,200 of our stores.

"We have recently announced the planned opening of a new flagship store in Covent Garden, London and the reinvention of our beauty business in 24 stores across the UK.

"We are being realistic about the future and that we will need to be agile to adapt to the changing landscape.”

The speculation follows recent warnings from the company's American-based owners, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, about ongoing trading challenges.

Its most recent results, for the quarter up to the end of February, published last month, reported a 1.3 per cent decline in UK sales.

Chief executive Stefano Pessina said the period had been the group'2 toughest since its formation.

He added: "During the quarter, we saw significant reimbursement pressure, compounded by lower generic deflation, as well as continued consumer market challenges in the U.S. and UK.

"While we had begun initiatives to address these trends, our response was not rapid enough given market conditions, resulting in a disappointing quarter that did not meet our expectations.

“We are going to be more aggressive in our response to these rapidly shifting trends."

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