09/07/2020 12:25 BST | Updated 09/07/2020 14:15 BST

Boots Set To Cut 4,000 Jobs Following Hit To Sales During Coronavirus Pandemic

Retail sales tumbled by almost 50% over the past three months.

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High street pharmacy chain Boots has said it expects to cut more than 4,000 jobs in a bit to tackle the “significant impact” of Covid-19.

The move will affect around 7% of the company’s workforce, bosses said.

Meanwhile, 48 Boots Opticians stores will be closed as part of the restructuring plans. 

The news about job cuts at Boots came on the same day John Lewis revealed it would permanently close eight stores, putting 1,300 jobs at risk. 

The closures include two full-size department stores in Birmingham and Watford amid a reported shift to online sales. 

Cuts by the two high street giants follow redundancies at a number of other companies.

Last week, SSP – the owner of brands including Cafe Ritazza and Upper Crust – said it would cut as many as 5,000 jobs, while Arcadia is due to slash 500 roles

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The decision by Boots to cut jobs came after retail sales tumbled by 48% during lockdown, despite the chain keeping swathes of its stores open to customers.

Meanwhile, its opticians business saw sales dive by 72% compared to the same quarter last year as people stayed at home.

Boots said that the cuts represent an “acceleration” of its transformation plans to improve profitably across the business.

Managing director Sebastian James said: “The proposals announced today are decisive actions to accelerate our transformation plan, allow Boots to continue its vital role as part of the UK health system, and ensure profitable long-term growth.

“I am so very grateful to all our colleagues for their dedication during the last few challenging months.

“They have stepped forward to support their communities, our customers and the NHS during this time, and I am extremely proud to be serving alongside them.”

“In doing this, we are building a stronger and more modern Boots for our customers, patients and colleagues.

“We recognise that today’s proposals will be very difficult for the remarkable people who make up the heart of our business, and we will do everything in our power to provide the fullest support during this time.” 

No.10 said the job losses were “very worrying” for employees.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “This will be very worrying news for Boots employees and we stand ready to support those workers and their families in any way possible.

“The chancellor has said that sadly we won’t be able to protect every job but we have put in place a very substantial package which allows businesses to draw upon a range of financial support during this challenging time including loans, tax deferrals and cash grants.

“Anyone affected by job losses will also be able to access a wide range of support including Universal Credit and the new-style jobseeker’s allowance, as well as benefit from the measures announced yesterday by the chancellor to get people back into work.”