Boots trials Chinese medicine

Health and beauty giant Boots The Chemists is pursuing Eastern promise through a partnership with Chinese healthcare retailer Sen, owned by Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa.

The first Sen concession, stocked with exotic items such as bamboo and ginseng remedies and 'anti-grump pills', has opened at Boots' High Street Kensington store.

Although the concession is a test, more Sen shop-in-shops are likely if the first proves successful.

A Boots spokesman said its Alternatives range had proved to be a strong brand within the Western herbal medicines market and a logical step was to explore the potential of Eastern medicine.

Boots recently scaled back some of its Wellbeing division's ties with complementary therapies. However, Sen is product rather than service based.

Sen general manager Bill Westwater believed Boots' trusted status would help gain popular acceptance of Chinese medicine.

'There is a lack of trust in alternative medicine, with shops often found in local Chinatowns. Our presence at Boots will help us to attract mainstream customers and to gain their trust,' he said.

Sen is testing several formats including own stores, shop-in-shops and department store concessions. It will open in Selfridges in May.

Seymour Pierce analyst Rhys Williams said any roll-out of Sen in Boots' stores would probably be limited to 'certain areas'.

Boots has its own 'implants' in Taiwanese branches of Watson's, Hutchison Whampoa's Asian drugstore business.