High street stalwart Boots saw sales jump in its stores over its Christmas trading period, as the return of tourism and office-working proved a shot in the arm for its city locations.
The privately owned chemist said like-for-like retail sales leapt 8.7 per cent in its first quarter to November, marking record-breaking sales on Black Friday.
Footfall to stores had continued to recover from the side effects of the pandemic “at pace,” ahead of wider UK figures, bosses said on Thursday.
A return to physical stores was boosted by commuters making a return to offices and an uptick in tourists visiting transport and city centre locations.
Cash-strapped consumers helped drive sales of the firm’s own brand essentials up by more than a third.
The retailer said its top selling products were cosmetic products and gift sets, including the Benefit Gift Set, Paco Rabanne Fragrance and No7 Beauty Collection.
A Boots spokesperson said the retailer’s sales were evidence of the ‘lipstick’ effect, where customers continue to purchase reasonably-priced treats for themselves, despite the cost of living pressures.
They said: “Sales of lipsticks in our self-selection cosmetics ranges have increased, however, the effect is wider than just lipstick, with sales of beauty, fragrance and skincare products at Boots rising year on year.
“For example, in December, we saw three consecutive biggest weeks ever in skincare, suggesting customers are looking to continue with small indulgencies.”
Boots also marked retail sales growth of around 15 per cent last month, when many shoppers returned to the high street to do their Christmas shopping after the pandemic.
The chemist’s focus on aiding shoppers by giving them “our best ever value to help with cost of living pressures,” had led to boosted retail sales and market share growth for a seventh consecutive quarter, Sebastian James, managing director of Boots UK & ROI, said.
Boots had also reaped the rewards of pumping cash into its digital capability and refreshing its stores, James added.
The health and beauty retailer’s positive performance signals good news for its US owners, the Walgreen Boots Alliance (WBA), which opted to shelve plans to sell the chain this summer.
The pharmacy giant declared it would retain full ownership of the chemist, citing “unexpected and dramatic change” felt by the global financial markets last year.
It blamed market instability’s impact on suitors’ financing availability, with no parties able to make an offer that “adequately reflects the high potential value” of Boots and the cosmetics brand No7.
After a protracted auction process, only a consortium of Apollo and Reliance Industries had lined up lenders to finance an acquisition.
While the billionaire brothers behind Asda, Mohsin and Zuber Issa and TDR Capital, once seemed keen to make a bid, financing had also reportedly proved difficult.