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Superbrands case studies - Boots

Boots is the UK's leading health and beauty retailer and has been trading since the 19th century. With around 1,500 stores in the UK and Irish Republic, it serves approximately 8m customers every week.

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Boots develops and sells own brand products, a number of which are leaders in their respective markets. The Boots brand is founded on the trust, expertise and heritage, which comes with its longevity in the market.

Boots Group operates three principal businesses: Boots The Chemists; Boots Opticians; and Boots Retail International.

Pharmacy is a fundamentally important part of the brand; representing one quarter of sales, it is the foundation of Boots' authority and credibility.

Boots stores are mostly located on high streets; but, in line with modern shopping trends, its presence in edge of town retail parks is rapidly increasing. Over the last three years 48 such stores have opened, as well as a flagship London store on Oxford Street.

Overseas, Boots is working closely with other major retailers in their local markets, to open Boots branded "implants" within their stores. There are currently 758 implants in 13 countries. Boots also has 96 standalone stores in Thailand.

Boots has had an illustrious history. From its beginnings in 1849 as an herbalist shop, Boots has continually developed new product ranges, many of which are now household names in their own right.

By the 1930s, Boots had more than 1,000 stores selling a wide range of products, including its new cosmetic range, No7. Expansion overseas began as early as 1936 with a store in New Zealand.

Following World War II, Boots continued to grow, expanding its manufacturing and research capabilities, including an agricultural division. The creation of the National Health Service in 1948 led to a vast increase in dispensing, which Boots embraced.

Over the years Boots has successfully introduced brands such as 17 cosmetics, aimed at teenagers, which was introduced in 1968 and new business ventures such as Boots Opticians -- now a major division of the business.

In 1985 the Research Department received the Queen's Award for Technological Achievement for the discovery and development of ibuprofen. The analgesic ibuprofen was introduced in 1969 as a prescription drug, but launched as the over the counter brand, Nurofen, in 1983.

Boots' internet business has become increasingly important in the new millennium and a successful part of the brand. Improvements have been made to the online customer experience making navigation easier, resulting in sales becoming bigger than those of the largest Boots store.

Boots is best known for selling a wide range of products under the Boots brand name across health and beauty. Within this portfolio, it has the UK's biggest beauty brand in No7, and Soltan, the UK's number one suncare range (Source: TNS Worldpanel). In early 2007, the retailer launched the Boots Expert range; research and development has always been key to Boots, developing new products to improve its own-brands and exclusives ranges.

Boots Advantage Card, which awards customers four points for every pound spent, (with points redeemable for products instore), is a hugely important part of the business. With almost 15m active cardholders, Advantage Cards are used in around 70% of BTC sales. Linked to the Advantage Card, in 2005 Boots launched its Parenting Club for expectant and new mothers, and followed it with the Boots Health Club in 2006, giving regular advice and information as well as discounted products to its members.

Installed in 1999, Boots Advantage Card kiosks provide cardholders with personalised offers based on their shopping habits. Boots is now updating its Advantage Card kiosks in 485 of its high street stores with smaller, faster and easier to navigate models. Updated technology will also enable offers to be more targeted.

Recent developments
The merger between Alliance UniChem plc and Boots Group plc was completed on July 1 2006, creating an international pharmacy-led health and beauty group operating in more than 15 countries across the world.

The Alliance Boots network will include two retail formats, both under the Boots brand, ranging from approximately 1,500 smaller dispensing pharmacies to approximately 800 larger destination high street and edge of town health and beauty stores. In addition, Alliance Boots will also operate approximately 300 additional retail outlets, including freestanding Boots Opticians practices.

Boots is also developing in-store "health zones" in its bigger stores, which will include extended waiting areas for customers collecting prescriptions. Consultation rooms for pharmacists are also being introduced, as part of a government initiative to alleviate the pressure on GPs' surgeries.

Boots uses a wide range of media on an ongoing basis, including TV, press, and direct mailings to its Advantage Card members to highlight new products, offers and services.

Brand values
Jesse Boot, the son of John Boot, the brand's eponymous founder, took control of the business in the 1870s. He had a business philosophy of buying in bulk and passing the benefit of reduced prices on to his customers. His policy of superior goods at competitive prices delivered with expert care meant that the Boots name became synonymous with quality, value and service. His earliest marketing was based around the concept of "Largest, Best and Cheapest - Branches Everywhere".

This philosophy is still an important part of Boots' today. It aims to treat its customers fairly and to act with integrity in everything it does, which results in the brand regularly being rated as the UK's most trusted brand.

Boots also believes that it has an enormously valuable role to play in promoting the health of the nation. It achieves this by forming innovative, long term partnerships with charities, particularly focusing on women's cancer. Boots has worked with Breast Cancer Care for 11 years, and this year linked with the Eve Appeal to highlight ovarian cancer. Boots also supports the health of the UK everyday through its 15,000 healthcare advisers working in store.

Things you didn't know about Boots The Chemist

  • In 2001 Boots launched the world's first disposable hearing aid, Songbird.
  • Eight per cent of Boots customers visit before going into the stores.
  • No7 cosmetics have been relaunched six times, most dramatically in 2005 when the entire new range was introduced overnight in all Boots stores.
  • Boots made a significant contribution to the war effort, producing items such as water sterilisers, vermin powder and anti-fly cream for men at the Front.
  • During 2005/2006 Boots sold 0.8 million pairs of spectacles.

1849 John Boot opens an herbalist shop in Goose Gate, Nottingham.
1892 A flagship Boots store opens at Pelham Street, Nottingham.
1920 Boots Pure Drug Company Ltd is sold to the United Drug Company of America, however ownership returns to the UK in 1933.
1935 Cosmetics brand No7 launches and beauty parlours are introduced in a number of stores, the first being in London's Regent Street.
1956 The first self-service Boots store opens in London.
1971 The company is renamed The Boots Company Ltd, later changing to The Boots Company plc in 1982.
1987 Boots Opticians Ltd is formed, with the acquisition of Clement Clarke Ltd and Curry & Paxton Ltd. It becomes the UK's second largest retail optics chain.
1997 Boots Advantage Card launches.
2003 The online shopping channel is renamed
2006 Boots Group plc merges with Alliance UniChem plc to form Alliance Boots and the sale of Boots Healthcare International is completed.

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