Alliance Boots executive chairman Stefano Pessina has vowed that the Boots brand will be sold in all the major countries in the world within five years.
The health and beauty group sells Boots-branded products in 15 countries at present, including the US, France, Portugal and Canada, but the Italian tycoon wants to cover the rest of the world through company-owned stores and partnerships.
Pessina told Retail Week: “In five years we will be a global company and the Boots brand will be sold in most countries of the world.”
He is keen on both acquisitions and partnerships such as the deal Boots has struck with Waitrose in the UK to cross-sell products. Another example is in Thailand where it has opened pharmacies in partnership with Carrefour. “If you have the right partner, you can go into any country,” he said.
Alliance Boots – which this week is celebrating the 160th anniversary of the Boots brand – has set up a division called Boots Laboratories to house its international products. Products such as Serum 7 come under this banner at present and Pessina said there will be “many more” products developed for the international markets.
He also remains focused on offering other brands alongside private label: “We are keen to offer as much as we can. Our products are part of the choice at Boots but we also need brands to complement that.”
With Waitrose, Pessina said the two retailers will start to cross-sell in the new year. It has also already rebranded the 13 pharmacies it operates in Waitrose and will seek to open more. “In some shops we can see us having a shop-in-shop for Waitrose [in Boots’ stores] but it depends on the size,” he said.
He said he would look for further partners in the UK because there is a limit to how many stores the retailer can open, but added that “we would only approach companies that are not conflicting with us or with our partners” and ruled out teaming up with any other UK grocer.
He said selling Boots-branded products via Waitrose’s online partner Ocado was “not a priority” but that the collaboration with Waitrose would develop over time.
Pessina, who took the company private in 2007 in a £11.1bn deal backed by private equity giant KKR, said Alliance Boots had invested £800m in stores, service and acquisitions in two years but acknowledged there was more to do.
He said: “The quality of our stores is better than before but we are still in the process of bringing back Boots to what it was 50 years ago with legendary customer service.”
He said Andy Hornby, who joined in July, is the “captain” of the team and has “grasped the spirit and taken control”. He said Hornby’s appointment, working alongside retail chief Alex Gourlay and wholesale head Ornella Barra, allows him to focus on deals and returning Boots to its former glory.