Boots' new chief executive, 40-year-old former Asda COO Richard Baker, has a headache that will not be cured by Nurofen. Profits at the nation's favourite chemist have fallen by more than pounds 100 million this year, with losses at its dentalcare and chiropody businesses totalling pounds 22 million.
These days, 1,400-odd stores and brand recognition that rivals would kill for is not enough to keep the shareholders happy. Long-term problems getting its customers to climb the stairs have left thousands of underperforming square feet on the upper level of many of Boots' shops. Upstairs is where the high-margin goods like Rosemary Conley bodyfat scales and Krups' Panini press are often to be found. But Boots' biggest commercial blunder has been its Wellbeing initiative, a desperate attempt to boost growth by cashing in on the Botox and nail-bar phenomenon with its high street beauty centres. It ended with 700 redundancies in March and the departure of boss Steve Russell. A factory in Lanarkshire has also been closed and 500 more jobs went at the firm's Nottingham HQ in June.