Boots is opening a concept store featuring a beauty hall with its own YouTube studio as part of one of the biggest makeovers in the retailer’s 170-year history.
The health and beauty chain’s new outlet, which will open on Thursday in Covent Garden, central London, is the first of a string of revamped shops to be rolled out by Sebastian James, the Boots managing director.
The white marble-tiled beauty hall hosts more than 300 brands, including Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty and the cosmetics label Urban Decay. After browsing and watching live demonstrations, shoppers can take pictures of their purchases in an Instagram zone or conduct video makeovers in the YouTube studio.
Boots, keen to promote its green credentials after announcing on Monday that it is phasing out single-use plastic carrier bags in favour of brown paper alternatives, has installed its first water tap where customers can fill up bottles free of charge.
James said: “Our new Covent Garden store starts a journey of reinventing Boots for the future. The store is full of exciting beauty brands, ideas for living well and services to help you get better. We will learn what people love and want from this shop, and this will help us shape a blueprint for our whole 2,500-store estate.”
On the first floor, pharmacy customers can collect prescriptions from a secure locker, which James said could be located outside stores, as is common in the Netherlands and Germany. Nearby, Boots will display its range of sustainable and health products including eco-friendly sanitary protection, refillable shampoos and products containing CBD, an active ingredient in cannabis.
The 28,524 sq ft store is on a site where a Marks & Spencer outlet closed last year due to soaring business rates, in a prime central London location where footfall is driven by high tourist numbers as well as local workers.
An estimated 90% of the UK population live 10 minutes or less from a Boots store. But in May, the retailer announced it could close up to 200 stores over the next two years, resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs, as it struggles with competition from discounters and online specialists.
Boots is reviewing its portfolio with the chain’s US parent company, Walgreens Boots Alliance, seeking to cut $1bn (£790m) in costs worldwide.
The new store’s general manager, Rob Stewart, said: “This is an unusual location because of the high number of tourists shopping in this area. But we see the project as a test bed and we look forward to hearing from shoppers what they think of the new concepts.”
Cardboard advertisements and signs above shelves have been removed to reduce clutter and aisles have been widened. Meanwhile, signs designating gender-specific frames have been ditched from the opticians area.