This year marks a significant milestone for Boots, the beloved UK health and beauty retailer, as it celebrates its 175th anniversary.

From its humble beginnings as a small herbalist shop in Nottingham to becoming a household name with a presence in nearly every high street across the country, Boots has evolved in remarkable ways, through its ongoing commitment to providing quality healthcare and beauty products to millions of customers.

To celebrate its 175th anniversary, Boots is planning a number of events and initiatives throughout the year — from offering a series of talks alongside a ‘Counter Culture‘ exhibition in Nottingham, to launching new services, one-off promotions, and limited-edition product ranges.  

Today, Boots operates over 2,500 stores across the UK and employs more than 56,000 people.

A rich history rooted in healthcare

Boots was founded in 1849 by John Boot, who opened a small shop offering herbal remedies to the people of Nottingham. Following John’s death, his widow, Mary, and their son, Jesse, took over the business. Jesse Boot’s innovative approach and dedication to expanding the product range and improving accessibility to health products transformed the family business into a nationwide chain.

Courtesy of Boots Archive. Counter Culture explores the transformation of Boots from the neighbourhood Victorian chemist to the superstores of the 1980s and beyond.

Innovation and expansion

Throughout its history, Boots has been at the forefront of innovation in the health and beauty sectors. In the early 20th century, Boots introduced its own range of products, ensuring high quality at affordable prices. This move was revolutionary, making healthcare products more accessible to the general public.

In 1933, Boots opened its first self-service store, a concept that was ahead of its time and laid the groundwork for the modern retail experience. The company continued to expand and innovate, introducing popular product lines such as No7 cosmetics in 1935, which remains a bestseller today.

Boots Goose Gate store, Nottingham, 1896 (courtesy of Boots Archive)

Boots No7 and ITN Business 

Earlier this year, ITN Business produced a film in collaboration with Boots No7, which launched in April across UK cinemas. The film revealed fresh insights from Boots No7 scientists into the accumulative effect of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays on our skin, and what we can do to help address visible signs of sun damage.

The film promoted the relaunch of Boots No7’s Future Renew Serum, and saw three real women come together with No7 Senior Scientist, Dr Ellie Bradley, to discuss skin changes and explore common misconceptions around skin ageing.

Watch the two-minute film 

Commitment to community and healthcare

During both World Wars, Boots played a crucial role in supporting the nation’s healthcare needs by producing essential medical supplies. In the post-war years, the company continued to expand its pharmacy services, becoming a trusted provider of prescriptions and health advice.

The introduction of the Boots Advantage Card in 1997 marked another significant step in customer engagement, offering rewards and personalised discounts, which have fostered customer loyalty over the years.

Modern-day Boots

Today, Boots operates over 2,500 stores across the UK and employs more than 56,000 people. The company has embraced digital innovation, with a robust online presence that complements its physical stores. Boots’ online pharmacy and health services have made it easier for customers to access essential products and services from the comfort of their homes.

In addition to its retail and pharmacy services, Boots is committed to social responsibility and sustainability. The company has implemented numerous initiatives to reduce its environmental impact, including reducing plastic waste and increasing the use of sustainable materials in its product packaging, while also supporting domestic abuse victims throughout the pandemic.

A ‘Safe Space’: Boots stores opened private consultation rooms in 2020, that were made available to anyone, providing a key point of contact for support services.
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