01 July 2024

Boots boss to stand down after six years at the helm

01 July 2024

The boss of UK high street health and beauty chain Boots has announced plans to stand down after six years in the top job.

Managing director Sebastian James has handed in his notice to take up a role in the healthcare sector.

Boots, which is owned by US-listed giant Walgreens Boots Alliance, said Mr James will remain with the group until November.

The firm has kicked off the process to find his successor.

Mr James is understood to be leaving to head up European eye surgery business Veonet, which owns SpaMedica in the UK.

Boots declined to comment on his new role, while Veonet was approached for comment.

He has been in the top job at Boots in the UK since 2018, having previously headed up the electricals retailer Dixons, which has since been renamed Currys.

During his time at Boots, he has overseen 13 consecutive quarters of market share growth, according to the firm.

But his decision to quit comes amid reports that Walgreens has put plans on ice to sell or float the Boots chain for the second time in two years.

Mr James said: “It has been a pleasure to lead this fantastic company and support its transformation during my time as managing director.

“Now in its 175th year, Boots has shaped how people access health and beauty products on the high street and I am proud to have been part of a business that continues to hold a critical role at the centre of the UK health and beauty sectors.”

Mr James recently lent his support to Sir Keir Starmer at the Labour campaign launch, which raised eyebrows, given that the outgoing Boots boss is a family friend of Conservative former prime minister and current Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron.

Ornella Barra, international chief operating officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance, said: “We thank Sebastian for his commitment – together with the Boots leadership team – to delivering a strong platform for success and sustainable, long-term growth, and wish him all the best for his next endeavour.”

Boots – which employs more than 52,000 people and has about 1,900 stores – recently revealed a jump in sales for the latest quarter, but its parent firm cut profit forecasts and announced US store closures.

Boots posted a 6% rise in UK comparable retail sales over the quarter to the end of May, with in-store sales higher on the back of stronger footfall in its travel, beauty and flagship shops.

However, total sales growth slowed to 1.6% as it was impacted by store closures over the past year, having shut around 300 shops to take its store estate down to 1,900 sites.

Its owner Walgreens said in the results that it planned to shut more of its underperforming US shops following a strategic review.

Walgreens also cuts its earning per share guidance for the financial year to August, amid a “challenging US retail environment”.

The boss of UK high street health and beauty chain Boots has announced plans to stand down after six years in the top job (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox