Ref NoWBA/BT
TitleBoots UK
DescriptionThis collection comprises the records of Boots UK and its subsidiary companies, international retail chemist and manufacturer.
Date1855-present
LevelFonds
Extent1056 linear meters
Administrative HistoryThe origins of Boots date back to 1849 when John Boot opened the first herbalist store in Goose Gate, Nottingham. John Boot died in 1860 and the ownership of the store passed to his wife Mary Boot. In 1871 Mary entered into a partnership with her son, Jesse Boot and the store began trading as M&J Boot Herbalists. In 1877 Jesse took sole control of the family business. In addition to selling herbal remedies, Jesse branched out into patent medicines, which he sold at significantly lower prices than his competitors. His innovative business model of relying on high stock turnover by buying in bulk and offering, low prices through reduced profit margins was an instant success and the business began advertising under the banner 'Boots Cash Chemists'.
In 1883 the family business became a public limited liability company under the name Boot & Co Ltd and with the appointment of the first pharmacist, Edwin Waring, in 1884, Boots were able to trade as a chemist and druggist store and opened their first dispensing service in Nottingham. Stores were then opened in Lincoln and Sheffield and in a number of towns in the Midlands. A manufacturing site was acquired in the centre of Nottingham, at Island Street and the company's head offices were established at Station Street, Nottingham. In 1888 Boots Pure Drug Company was incorporated to manufacture pharmaceuticals and act as a holding company for the local retail branches which by 1893 totalled 33, making it the largest retail chemist in the UK. In 1892 Boots Pure Drug Company created its first subsidiary, Boots Ltd and invited customers to purchase shares over the counter within Boots shops, as a means of generating funds to develop the business further. As the store network expanded the company created further subsidiaries; Boots Cash Chemists (Western) Ltd. in 1897, Boots Cash Chemists (Lancashire) Ltd. in 1899, Boots Cash Chemists (Eastern) Ltd, 1900, Boots Cash Chemists (Southern) Ltd. in 1901 and Boots Cash Chemists (Northern) Ltd. 1910, which remained dormant until 1919. These companies offered preference shares to the public.
In 1908 with the passing of the Pharmacy Act, the future of Boots became more secure. It had withstood a series of petitions by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to the Government to make the management of multi-chain pharmacy businesses by non-pharmacists illegal.
The business continued to expand the store network and purchased a number of small retail chemist chains including Day's Drug Company of 65 stores in the south of England and Inmans Stores in Scotland and Northumberland. By the beginning of the First World War, Boots had over 550 stores nationwide, many of which, as well as providing pharmacy services, sold toiletries and gift and silverware and ran subscription libraries and cafes. The manufacturing side of the business expanded rapidly during the First World War as Boots extended their operations into fine chemicals and produced goods on behalf of the British Government. In 1919 Boots’ first overseas sales division was established in India.
In 1920 Jesse Boot sold the company to the United Drug Co Inc, USAand although he remained Chairman of the company till 1926, he effectively resigned from any active involvement. Boots operated as a stand-alone business throughout their period of US ownership. A new company structure was introduced with the establishment of two key executive committees one for the retail side of the business and one for the wholesale and manufacturing side. W C Church became the chairman of the manufacturing executive and John Boot, Jesse's son, became chairman of the retail committee. The role of Territorial General Manager was created to assist the retail committee in managing the extensive network of stores.
In 1923 The United Drug Company sold twenty-five percent of their shares in Boots and the company was listed on the stock-exchange. The 1920s marked a period of rapid retail and manufacturing development. In 1927 a 200 acre plot was purchased in Beeston, Nottingham to develop a new manufacturing site and in 1933 the company opened its thousandth store in Galashiels, Scotland. The 1920s also saw progress in the pharmaceutical research and development section of the business as Boots produced their first patented drug, Salvarsan and obtained a license from the British Medical Council to undertake production of Insulin.
Following his sale of the company, Sir Jesse Boot retired to Jersey. He spent the last few years of his life on philanthropic projects, including the development of a new campus for University College Nottingham, now the University of Nottingham. In 1929 Boot became a peer of the British realm and took the title 1st Baron Trent of Nottingham. He died at his home in Jersey in 1933 at the age of 81.
In May 1933 Boots returned to British ownership when a group of British financiers purchased a million shares in the company. The structure and the management of the business largely remained unchanged. In the same year, 'D10 ' factory, designed by Sir Owen Williams, was officially opened. The new manufacturing plant was vast in size and incorporated the latest ideas in design. It proved to be extremely efficient and enabled the company to introduce reduced working hours, creating the first five day working week in UK manufacturing.
During the 1930s Boots launched No7 skincare range and Soltan and opened their first store overseas in New Zealand. At the outset of the Second World War Boots were again seen to play a vital part in the war effort. Boots manufactured Penicillin in the largest surface culture plant in the country, designed and managed on behalf of the Ministry of Supply. Pharmaceutical research continued; 29 products were added to the existing portfolio, 12 of which were previously made only in Germany. The international store network was also expanded with new stores being opened in Fiji in 1944.
After the war the company established an international division to manage its export business. By 1950 they had subsidiary companies or accredited agents in 75 different countries. Overseas investment in manufacturing also took place with operations in India, Pakistan and Australia.
In the post war years an extensive retail development programme was introduced in which the company modernised and extended a significant number of their stores. The inauguration of the National Health Service in 1948 resulted in a growth in Boots' dispensing business and in 1951 the company trialled their first self -service store.
By the mid-1950s John Boot's ill-health prevented him from continuing in the business and he retired in 1954, and was succeeded as Chairman by John Savage. John Savage acted as Chairman until his retirement in 1961 and was succeeded by John Boot's son in law, Willoughby Norman.
In the mid-1960s Boots Farm Sales was established to handle the sale of agricultural products through Boots Farm Sales Limited.
In 1965 a Management Review was conducted by Peat Marwick Mitchell & Company who recommended a new management structure with the creation of operating divisions to cover the main activities of the business.
Additional administrative efficiencies were also envisaged with the opening of a large new office building, D90, on the Beeston site in 1968. Later that year Boots merged with Timothy Whites and Taylors who owned 600 chemists and houseware stores. The merger marked the largest increase in store numbers in the company's history and was followed by a period of rationalisation both in the store network and head office activities.
In 1969 Boots launched a prescription anti-rheumatic drug known as Brufen, now more commonly known as Ibuprofen. The international success of the new drug necessitated the construction of a dedicated new factory for its production at Beeston.
In 1971 the company changed its name to The Boots Company. The new company had four main subsidiaries; Boots Pure Drug Company, Boots The Chemists, Timothy Whites and Boots Farm Sales. In August of the same year the company also acquired the Crookes Group and two separate subsidiary companies were listed: Crooked Laboratories Group Ltd - a manufacturing and wholesale chemist which marketed around 50 products to the medical and veterinary professions; Crookes Anestan Ltd - a manufacturing and wholesaling of toilet preparations, which marketed ten over-the-counter products to chemists and chain stores. In 1972 Crookes Anestan's inventory was extended when it assumed responsibility for the range of products marketed by Lenbrook Laboratories which included Sweetex.
Further international expansion took place in the late 1970s with the acquisition of a 70% stake in the French retail chain of Sephora and in 1977 with the purchase of Tamblyns stores in Canada.
A new chemical production factory was created in 1983 at Cramlington to support the manufacture of Froben, an anti-rheumatic product sold in the US. In the same year the company also formed a new enterprise in partnership with Celltech Limited to create Boots-Celltech Diagnostics to develop and manufacture clinical diagnostic products for the world market. In the same year the company's first in-store optical practice opened in Nottingham and Ibuprofen was approved by the Department for Health as an over-the-counter product.
A new subsidiary was created in 1987 with the formation of Boots Opticians Limited following the acquisitions of Clement Clarke, Edmund Wilkes and Curry & Paxton making it the second largest retail optics chain in the country. In 1989 Boots acquired Ward White Group Plc, a group of autoparts and DIY retailing companies predominantly operating in the UK and US.
Company re-structuring took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the formation of Boots Properties Division in 1989 and Boots Healthcare International and Boots Contract Manufacturing in 1991. In 1995 the company sold Boots Pharmaceuticals to BASF and completed the sale, in the following year, of Children's World to Storehouse. Three European acquisitions were made to support Boots Healthcare International with Laboratoires Lutsia in France and Famila Dermical in Italy and Hermal in Germany. Boots became the largest retail chain in the Republic of Ireland in 1998 with the acquisition of Hayes, Conyngham & Robinson and the Connors pharmacy chain. International retail also expanded in Thailand and The Netherlands as Boots stores started trading and in 2002 a partnership with A S Watson Ltd saw Boots brands in Taiwan.
In 2002 the business sold Halfords to CVC Capital Partners and in 2006 Boots Healthcare International was sold to Reckitt Benckiser. The company merged in June 2006 with Alliance Unichem to become part of Alliance Boots, which was subsequently acquired by AB Acquisitions Limited and its shares were delisted from the London Stock Exchange.
The opticians business expanded in 2009 with the merger between Boots Opticians and Dollond & Aitchison.
In 2012 Walgreens acquired a 45% stake in Alliance Boots and in 2014 with the merger of both businesses a new company was formed, Walgreens Boots Alliance, which was listed on the US stock exchange.

Company name changes
1849 British and American Botanic Establishment
1871 The shop began trading as M & J Boot Herbalists
1883 Boot & Company Ltd was formed
1888 Company was renamed Boots Pure Drug Company Ltd
1971 Company was renamed The Boots Company Ltd
1982 Company was renamed The Boots Company Plc
2003 Company was renamed Boots Group Plc
2006 Boots Group Plc merges with Alliance Unichem Plc to form Alliance Boots plc
2007 Alliance Boots acquired by Alliance Boots Acquisitions Ltd
2015 Alliance Boots merged with the US firm Walgreens to become Walgreens Boots Alliance
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