Business week – Bitter pill for Boots?.

The economic downturn slowing the country is finally hitting the high street.

Investors in Boots Company will see this week whether lower consumer confidence has affected their results, as the retail giant publishes figures for the half-year.

According to the company, the profit outlook for the year to March 2002 remains in line with management expectations at the start of the year.

In a statement published with its annual results to 31 March, 2001, chairman John McGrath said: ‘We’ve continued to hold our own against competition.

The retail environment will not get any easier this year, but our offers to consumers are becoming more distinctive and attractive.’

The company has been restructuring to ‘be the leader in health and beauty,’ according to chief executive Steve Russell.

In May, the company restated its annual results due to its reorganisation, which it said was aimed at creating a more integrated business. But in September, the company said its performance for the second quarter had been mixed. Although health and beauty sales grew, baby products and photographic sales had declined.

In the first quarter, Boots’ chemist’s sales showed a small increase.

Its International Healthcare declined in that period but was recovering slightly in the second quarter, despite the delay in sales caused by the abolition of resale price maintenance.

‘The cost reduction programme remains on track to deliver annualised #250m savings by the end of the year,’ the company said.

But Boots is facing increased difficulties. In September, The Consumer Confidence Barometer, a monthly survey compiled by the GFK Group for the European Commission, showed consumer confidence had fallen, following the terror attacks. Consumer confidence had held up when the economy slowed earlier this year, but analysts fear lack of it could tip the UK into recession.

Related reading