Sales at pharmacy chain Boots have dropped by nearly 18% in the UK, the company’s parent revealed on Wednesday.

The drop was caused by the continued impacts of Covid-19, which is pushing down the number of customers using the UK’s high street stores.

Boots hit as footfall drops
Boots has struggled to get feet through the door (David Parry/PA)

Sales fell 17.8% in the three months to the end of February, even as its website, Boots.com, saw a 105% rise compared to the same period last year.

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“Covid-19 continued to impact footfall, particularly in major high streets, and in train stations and airports,” Walgreens Boots Alliance said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The recovery in footfall trends seen in early autumn was set back by the re-introduction of stricter restrictions beginning in November, mainly due to a 17.8 percent decrease in Boots UK sales resulting from Covid-19 related impacts.”

The rise of one-stop grocery shopping, where shoppers buy all the food they need from one place, weighed on Boots, which does not cater to such shopping habits.

The only category of goods where Boots gained market share was for beauty products.

Gross profit dropped 9.2%, despite a 4.2% impact from favourable currency exchange rates.

Parent company Walgreens Boots Alliance saw its sales rise 4.6%, despite the weight of Boots UK.

Its earnings per share from continuing operations rose 8.7% to 1.06 dollars.

Walgreens has been included in the US vaccination drive, administering more than eight million doses to date.

“Overall, we have achieved a good financial quarter with results well ahead of expectations, despite significant impacts from Covid-19,” said chief executive Rosalind Brewer, who took over the top job on March 15.

“I am optimistic about our ability to drive sustainable, long-term value for our shareholders, while acknowledging that there is still work to be done to stabilize the base business.”

“I will continue to review closely all our initiatives, strategies and opportunities to capitalize fully on the incredible potential in front of us. Our team will move swiftly and decisively to best serve the needs of our patients, customers and communities around the world, at this critical time and beyond.”