British chemist Boots suffered a near 30 per cent drop in sales in the fourth quarter of the year as consumers stayed away from the high street despite the coronavirus pandemic easing slightly.
Sales dropped 29.2 per cent compared to the same period a year earlier. However, the figures were an improvement on the previous quarter, when sales plunged 48 per cent year on year.
Boots is part of the US-listed group Walgreens Boots Alliance, which reported its full-year financial results today.
Like many retailers, Boots saw a surge in online sales over the quarter. They were up 155 per cent year on year, improving on a 78 per cent jump in the third quarter.
Boots also sounded positive about the direction of travel. “Footfall improved steadily in the fourth quarter compared with the third quarter,” it said.
However, rising coronavirus cases and new restrictions threaten to hit recovering businesses hard.
The UK government has put in place a new tiered system of restrictions. This, along with worries over rising cases, is set to hit high-street footfall over the winter.
Walgreens Boots Alliance chief executive Stefano Pessina said he was “encouraged by the accelerating growth in our e-commerce platforms”.
“Now, more than ever, our pharmacy-centered business is at the heart of community healthcare and we are expanding on that role for the future.”
The group’s US pharmacies performed better than their sister stores across the Atlantic. Same-store sales in the US retail pharmacy division rose 3.6 per cent from a year earlier.
Walgreens said it expects strong profit growth in the second half of 2021. Its shares rose 1.6 per cent in pre-market US trading.