Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), who own high street store Boots, has confirmed it has begun what they are calling a “a store optimisation process” which will impact around 200 Boots stores in the UK over the next 18 months.
Bedford has two Boots stores. One at the Harpur Centre and one in the Interchange Retail Park.
Bosses say it’s too early to say which of the 200 UK stores will be closed.
It follow rumours in May that they were looking to close underperforming stores.
“WBA has now approved an outline plan to consolidate around 200, principally local pharmacy, stores where we have a large number within close proximity,” said Sebastian James, Managing Director, Boots UK and ROI.
“We believe this is the right thing to do as it means that we can invest more in staffing those stores while not reducing our 90% coverage within a 10-minute drive of a Boots.
“We do not anticipate a significant effect from this activity to colleagues as we will redeploy the overwhelming majority to neighbouring stores.”
Boots currently employs around 62,000 people across 2,400 stores. Around 6,500 of the staff are registered pharmacists.
While the closures represent just 8% of the chain, shop workers’ trade union Usdaw, who recently launched a Save Our Shops campaign, is calling on WBA to enter into talks.
Daniel Adams, Usdaw National Officer said: “This is clearly very worrying news for the staff in all Boots stores particularly given the company’s earlier denials.
“Usdaw will be doing all it can to support members during this difficult time. It is only fair that staff are treated with dignity and respect, which is best achieved by giving them a voice through their trade union.
“We urge the company to engage with Usdaw as the trade union for Boots retail staff to ensure that all avenues to minimise job losses are explored during this critical time.
“This issue is not confined to Boots, our high streets are in crisis and we need the Government to adopt a clear and coherent strategy for retail, to address the worries and concerns of shopworkers and our members.
“Usdaw has developed a retail strategy and we hope it will be a catalyst for a combined and concerted effort to tackle the growing retail crisis and save our shops.”
WBA say the decision hasn’t been taken lightly but in a challenging time for high streets across the world, they say their priority is now to make “our stores and online offer more differentiated and personalised.”
Sebastian James adds: ““There’s no doubt that trading conditions are tough on the High Street and healthcare and retail are facing a challenging reality.
“Boots is not immune to these pressures, however we have a remarkable brand and I am continually amazed by the extraordinary deep love and respect people have for Boots.
“We’re still a very successful company with a phenomenal presence in the UK but we need to take some tough decisions to transform the fundamentals of our business, building on our 170-year legacy, to ensure our future growth.”
Boots UK say that their comparative retail sales were down 2.6%, but pharmacy sales increased 0.8% in the last quarter.
YouGov brand index 2017 revealed that 85% of the UK population use Boots, with 41% also using Boots Pharmacy.