How Did Boots Go From Our Local Pharmacy To One Of The World’s Leading Beauty Destinations?

No longer just for your holiday essentials, Boots is promising customers an illustrious portfolio of the world's most popular beauty brands...

boots beauty high street

by Hannah Banks-Walker |
Updated on

When was the last time you went to Boots? Today? Last week? With a presence on most UK high streets, the pharmacy became something of a British institution, having been established in 1849. Catering to a wide variety of needs, it's like an old friend on whom you can rely, whatever you're looking for. But when it came to beauty, things looked a little rocky with the advent of e-commerce and digital-only brands a few years ago – how could Boots, everyone's friendly local pharmacy, possibly compete in an ever-changing (and increasingly technological) beauty landscape?

This was the question posed by Joanna Rogers, trading director and VP of beauty, when she joined the business four years ago. 'Boots is the most loved brand but if I’m being brutal, my question was but is it still the most relevant? It's a very inclusive brand in terms of its customer base and we wanted to retain that but we also wanted to ensure that inclusivity became more modern.'

One of the ways in which Rogers tackled this issue was to diversify – and expand - the range of brands stocked by Boots. And the first major coup came a year and a half ago with the launch of Fenty Beauty, Rihanna's cosmetics brand that has inclusivity at the very heart of its business model. Previously only stocked at Harvey Nichols in the UK, Boot's acquisition of the celebrity-founded label proved to be a major turning point.

'We literally ask customers what would you like us to stock?' Rogers says. 'We want to make sure we are more diverse and we want to ask ‘hey are we missing something? Are there any brands we don’t have that we should be listing?’' That would be difficult, considering the amount of launches in the past few months. Laura Mercier, NARS, MAC and Philip Kingsley all arrived over the summer, while Shiseido launched at Boots at the beginning of October. This means that Boots' portfolio of brands consists of over 200 names within its beauty and skincare section, ranging from Clearasil to Chanel.

There have recently been reports of declining sales figures, unsurprising in the current retail landscape, which has seen so many businesses struggling due to lockdown restrictions. But, says Rogers, the beauty department is 'the fastest recovering category to come out of the pandemic. This year, our beauty reinvention strategy saw us launch 28 amazing new brands and, as a result, we are growing market share in this segment of the business.'

Despite these reports, waiting lists for specific products are longer than ever, with Boots seeing particularly high levels of interest around its No7 range – according to the brand, hundreds of thousands of people added their name to the waiting list for the No7 25 Days of Beauty Advent Calendar which, in the first hour of launch, was selling at a rate of four every second. Boots reported that this was 'the biggest hour of No7 orders ever in history, doubling last year’s first hour of sales.'

During the first UK lockdown of this year, Boots certainly saw a shift in customer behaviour, which translated to a surge in sales of skincare. 'Skincare is definitely the new makeup,' says Rogers. Over the past three months, the best-selling skincare products have included Boots' own Vitamin C Moisturising Cream (£4), No7 Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate (£34) and No7 Laboratories Line Correcting Booster Serum (£38). Other than that, The Ordinary, Clarins, Clinique, Liz Earle and Lancôme are some of the best-performing brands on site.

As we now head into another nationwide lockdown, Boots may see more demand for the self-care products that proved so popular earlier this year. Face masks continue to be one of the most searched-for items online, as well as lip balm and hand cream. Of course, new Covid restrictions are bound to have an impact on Christmas sales, which most retailers rely on every year. But Boots has a plan in place.

'With searches for eco-friendly products on growing by almost a third in the last year, we’re expecting to see a major shift towards planet-conscious gifting.,' Rogers says. 'We have eliminated 2,020 tonnes of plastic from our gift range by completely ditching single-use plastic packaging and removing all glitter from our Christmas gift packaging, seasonal greeting cards and wrapping paper.'

Moreover, the brand is focussing on giving its customers value for money. 45% of this year's gifts are priced at £10 and under, for example, while the Christmas 3 for 2 offer will be back with more products than ever. For Black Friday, there will be an entire month of deals.

'Most importantly, we want our customers to shop for everyone on their gift list in confidence this Christmas. We were recently named the safest place to shop on the high street and we will continue to adapt to ensure this still stands over the Christmas period. We have also doubled our capacity on in preparation for the biggest online Christmas to date.'

Rogers is optimistic about the future. Given the current state of the British high street, we can only hope she's right and that Boots will continue to thrive. After all, 90% of the UK live within a 10 minute drive of a Boots store. And they need their skincare.


Boots Best-Selling Skincare Products 2020 - Grazia

Best-Selling Skincare Products Boots1 of 7

Soap & Glory Face Soap & Clarity Vitamin C Facial Wash, £8

Best-Selling Skincare Products Boots2 of 7

L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Filler 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum, £24.99

Best-Selling Skincare Products Boots3 of 7

Olay Regenerist 3 Point Firming Anti-Ageing Cream Moisturiser, £31.49

Best-Selling Skincare Products Boots4 of 7

No7 Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate, £34

Best-Selling Skincare Products Boots5 of 7

Pixi Glow Tonic, £10

Best-Selling Skincare Products Boots6 of 7

Boots Vitamin C Brightening Moisturising Cream, £4

Best-Selling Skincare Products Boots7 of 7


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