Boots UK

Boots UK Limited
Private limited company
Industry Pharmaceuticals
Founded 1849 (1849), Nottingham, United Kingdom
Founder John Boot
Headquarters Nottingham, United Kingdom
Area served
United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland
Key people
Elizabeth Fagan, managing director, Boots UK and Ireland, from July 2016
Brands No. 7 , natural collection and Seventeen – Makeup
Soltan – Sun cream
Almus – Generic drugs
Number of employees
70,000 (UK)
1,900 (Ireland)
Parent Walgreens Boots Alliance
Subsidiaries Boots Opticians

Boots UK Limited[1] (formerly Boots the Chemists Limited), trading as Boots, is a pharmacy chain in the United Kingdom and Ireland, with outlets in most high streets, shopping centres and airport terminals. The company's former parent,[2] The Boots Company Plc, merged with Alliance UniChem in 2006 to form Alliance Boots.[3] In 2007, Alliance Boots was bought by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Stefano Pessina, taking the company private, and moving its headquarters to Switzerland, the first ever FTSE 100 company bought by a private equity firm. In 2012, Walgreens bought a 45% stake Alliance Boots, with the option to buy the rest within three years. It exercised this option in 2014, and as a result Boots became a subsidiary of the new company, Walgreens Boots Alliance, on 31 December 2014.

The company operates over 2,500 stores across the United Kingdom and Ireland ranging from local pharmacies to large health and beauty stores.[4] Their stores are primarily located on the high streets and in shopping centres. It sells many health and beauty products, and also provides optician and hearing care services within stores and as standalone practices. Boots also operates a retail website and runs a loyalty card programme branded as the Boots Advantage Card.


1849 to 2000

An advertisement for Boots from 1911

Boots was established in 1849, by John Boot. After his father's death in 1860, Jesse Boot, aged 10, helped his mother run the family's herbal medicine shop in Nottingham,[5] which was incorporated as Boot and Co. Ltd. in 1883, becoming Boots Pure Drug Company Ltd. in 1888. In 1920, Jesse Boot sold the company to the American United Drug Company.[6] However, because of deteriorating economic circumstances in North America Boots was sold back into British hands in 1933.[6] The grandson of the founder, John Boot, who inherited the title Baron Trent from his father, headed the company.[7] The Boots Pure Drug Company name was changed to The Boots Company Limited in 1971.

Boots diversified into the research and manufacturing of drugs with its development of the Ibuprofen painkiller during the 1960s, invented by Stewart Adams. The company was awarded the Queen's Award For Technical Achievement for this in 1987. A major research focus of Boots in the 1980s was the drug for congestive heart failure Manoplax. [8] The withdrawal from market of Manoplax due to safety concerns in 1993 caused major pressure from investors, and in 1994, Boots divested its prescription drugs division, which had become no longer viable, to BASF.[9][10] In 2006, it sold the Nurofen brand to Reckitt Benckiser.[11] The 2006 sale of Boots Healthcare International included everything made by Crookes Healthcare, based on the Nottingham site.

In 1968 Boots acquired the 622-strong Timothy Whites and Taylors Ltd chain.[6] Boots expanded into Canada by purchasing the Tamblyn Drugs chain circa 1978. Most Canadian Boots stores were converted to Pharma Plus in 1989, although a handful of locations remained as late as 1993, if not later. In 1982, the company opened a new manufacturing plant in Cramlington, Northumberland.[6] In the early 1990s, Boots began to diversify and bought Halfords, the bicycle and car parts business in 1991.[12] It also developed the Children's World business but sold it in 1996 to Mothercare.[13] Halfords was sold in 2002.[14]

Boots Opticians Ltd. was formed in 1987 with the acquisition of Clement Clarke Ltd. and Curry and Paxton Ltd. Boots Opticians became the UK's second largest retail optics chain.

Boots diversified into dentistry in 1998, with a number of stores offering this service.[15] Boots sold its Do-It-All home furnishings chain to Focus in 1998.[16] Boots also made a venture into "Wellbeing" services offering customers treatments ranging from facials, homoeopathy, and nutritional advice to laser eye surgery and Botox but these services were abandoned in 2003, despite a launch that included a dedicated Freeview and Sky TV channel of the same name, and even redirecting web traffic from to[17]

2000 to present

Boots branch in Yorkshire
Boots branch in Belfast

In late 2004, Boots sold its laser eye surgery business to Optical Express.[18]

In October 2005, a merger with Alliance UniChem was announced by the then chairman, Sir Nigel Rudd. The CEO Richard Baker left, and the new group became Alliance Boots plc. The merger became effective on 31 July 2006.[19]

Alliance Boots was purchased by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Stefano Pessina, the deputy chairman of the company, in April 2007 for £11.1 billion, taking the company private and beating a rival bid from Guy Hands' Terra Firma Capital Partners.[20] This was the first ever instance of a FTSE 100 company having been bought by a private equity firm.[21] In June 2008, the group headquarters were moved to Zug, Switzerland. According to John Ralfe, Boots' former head of corporate finance, "the UK has lost about £100m a year in tax as result".[22]

'Boots the Chemists Limited' was re-registered under the name 'Boots UK Limited' on 1 October 2007.[23] Management of all staff was moved to Boots Management Services Limited on July 1, 2010.[24]

On 19 June 2012, it was announced that Walgreens, the United States' largest drug store chain, would purchase a 45% stake in Alliance Boots for US$6.7 billion. The deal was said to be a long term plan to give maximum exposure to both brands, Boots more so in the US and, Walgreens more so in the UK and in China through Boots' presence in that market. The deal gave the option to complete a full merger of the organisations within three years costing an extra $9.5bn.[25] Walgreens confirmed on 6 August 2014 that it would purchase the remaining 55% and merge with Alliance Boots to form a new holding company, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.[26] Walgreens and Boots both become subsidiaries of the new company on 31 December 2014.

In April 2016, the Pharmacists' Defence Association stated that company managers were exploiting the NHS by insisting that each outlet carry out medicine use reviews, even if patients didn’t need them. The NHS pays £28 per review up to a maximum of 400 per store.[27] The Guardian stated that the General Pharmaceutical Council was poised to investigate.[28] The paper subsequently noted a letter purporting to be from an "independent pharmacist" criticising its stance on the issue which it identified as coming from one of the firm's vice presidents.[29]
Following the Guardian reports, Boots announced the departure of UK operations director, Simon Roberts, in June 2016.[30]


Boots sells medicines, health and beauty products. It has a food and drink range in the form of lunchtime meal deals.[31]

The Boots Charitable Trust

The company funds the Boots Charitable Trust, which is an independent registered charity in the UK, administrated by Nottinghamshire Community Foundation. The trust was established in the early 1970s to fund registered charities benefiting people who live in Nottinghamshire.[32]

D6 building in Beeston

The Boots Estate

The Boots Estate, located near the Nottingham suburb of Beeston, features a range of listed buildings. This includes the two principal factory buildings, D6 and D10, designed by Sir Owen Williams and built in 1932 and 1935–38 respectively. Both are Grade I listed. The former fire station, D34, is also by Williams and is Grade II listed. The headquarters office building known as D90 is Grade II* and was built to designs by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1966–68.[33] Staff have a restaurant, coffee and snack shops, newsagent, a branch of Boots the Chemist, an opticians branch and cash point situated within landscaped grounds. The grounds include the Millennium Garden, which features a herb garden (with some plants that Jesse used in his original herbal remedies) in the shape of a goose foot – harking back to Jesse's original shop on Goose Gate, Nottingham.

The Boots Museum is now closed; however, historical items are in storage or on display in the reception area of the D90 building.

See also


  1. Boots UK Limited. "Boots UK". Retrieved 20 March 2010.
  2. Memorandum and Articles of Association Reprint with all current amendments as at 26 July 2001
  3. "Alliance UniChem Plc and Boots Group PLC merger archive | Walgreens Boots Alliance". Retrieved 2015-12-28.
  4. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. Viceira, L. M., & Mitusui, A. M. (2003) Pension Policy at The Boots Company PLC, Harvard Business Review, Havard Business School, 27 August 2003
  6. 1 2 3 4 "Boots Learning Store". Boots Learning Store. 4 December 1999.
  7. 'Interwar retail internationalization: Boots under American ownership', The International Review of Retail Distribution and Consumer Research, 7(2), 1997
  8. "Manoplax: from heart to heartbreak: With millions lost on its 'wonder". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
  9. "Boots is pacesetter for drug chains in the UK".
  10. "COMPANY NEWS; Boots Pharmaceuticals Unit To Go to BASF of Germany". The New York Times. 1994-11-15. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
  11. Boots sells Nurofen in £1.9bn deal The Telegraph
  12. And it's all thanks to a passion for a penny-farthing bicycle The Times
  13. Boots in Childrenswear pact to sell Adams range The Telegraph
  14. Boots sells Halfords The Guardian
  15. "Boots to launch dental clinics". BBC News. 10 September 1998.
  16. Gilleo, Ken. "Boots decides that for £68m Focus can do-it-all".
  17. Boots ditches well being strategy The Independent
  18. Optical Express buys Boots laser business Optician Online
  19. "Boots announces £7bn merger deal". BBC News. 3 October 2005. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
  20. Craven, Neil (24 April 2007). "KKR Agrees to Buy Alliance Boots, Beating Guy Hands". Bloomberg. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  21. "Alliance Boots takeover approved". BBC. 31 May 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  22. Lawrence, Felicity (11 December 2010). "How Boots' Swiss move cost UK£100m a year". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  23. "BOOTS UK LIMITED - Overview (free company information from Companies House)". Retrieved 2015-12-28.
  24. "Kanayati AND BOOTS". Retrieved 2015-12-28.
  25. Harry Wallop (19 June 2012). "Alliance Boots sells 45pc stake to Walgreens". The Telegraph. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  26. "Walgreens to buy up Alliance Boots". BBC News. 6 August 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  27. Aditya Chakrabortty (13 April 2016). "Boots staff under pressure to milk the NHS for cash, says pharmacists' union". Guardian newspapers. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  28. Aditya Chakrabortty (17 April 2016). "=Boots could face regulator's investigation after Guardian report". Guardian newspapers. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  29. "'Independent' pharmacist's letter edited by Boots' owner". The Guardian. 29 April 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  30. Zoe Wood (9 June 2016). "Boots UK boss Simon Roberts quits". Guardian newspapers. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  31. Hickey, Shane (2015-06-27). "Do supermarket meal deals cut the mustard?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  32. "Charitable giving". Boots UK. 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  33. "National Heritage List for England".

Further reading

External links

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