Boots has opened its first new-look flagship since the retailer’s store refurbishment plans were unveiled, which has a keen focus on wellness and high-octane beauty brands.

The 26,000 sq ft store – formerly a Marks & Spencer – spans two floors, with the bottom floor dedicated to beauty brands and the upper floor set aside for a pharmacy and opticians, as well as the retailer’s biggest wellness range to date.

The store is packed with new features ranging from a selfie wall where shoppers can snap their in-store beauty makeovers, a water refill station customers can use and get a reduced price on their meal deal when they forgo a bottled drink, to a pharmacy collection locker that can hold 162 prescriptions at once.

UK managing director Seb James says the store marks the beginning of Boots’ fightback against rivals that have eaten into the health and beauty retailer’s market share in recent years.

“We have gone for a more premium feel even though we continue to be the same excellent value as we are across our stores”

Seb James, Boots

“I’m optimistic about Boots because most of my competition has had a period of time for three or four years where they’ve gone out and revamped and now it’s our turn,” he says.

“It’s our move and I think if we play it well we should be able to take quite a material share. We are comfortable we have taken share in all the big categories we operate in, including pharmacy in the last six months and I am pleased with that.”

The revamped beauty hall on the ground floor of the store stocks over 300 brands across beauty, fragrance and skincare, which James is confident will perform well.

“We have gone for a more premium feel even though we continue to be the same excellent value as we are across our stores. Everyone likes shopping in a nice environment and that is what we have tried to create here. We’ve had a bit more fun and been a bit more playful,” he says.

Radical shift

James says the 26 beauty halls Boots has revamped since the beginning of the financial year to have a more premium look and feel have recorded “a radical shift in performance”, which he says “gives us confidence that this feels like the right way forward”.

The retailer’s new Covent Garden flagship will also stock 32 new brands across beauty and wellness categories, including sustainable skincare brand Beauty Kitchen and beauty supplement brand Equi.

The flagship’s wellness products have been “merchandised by mission”, which James says will allow a shopper to browse items and get advice from trained staff on issues ranging from better sleep or more healthy nutrition.

“This whole area represents a transition that will be really important for us to help customers make better life choices,” says James.

The in-store pharmacy also includes a collection locker, where shoppers can collection their prescriptions by using a code that will be texted to their smartphone. Currently on trial in three stores, James says the lockers could potentially be available outside of stores for 24/7 collection in urban areas if they are a hit with shoppers.

The pharmacy area also includes an express checkout, one of 600 across Boots stores that pledge to fulfil customer prescription within two minutes.

James says depending on the success of its new flagship, more of its 78 flagships could be converted in a similar manner with financial support from Walgreens Boot Alliance.

He says the rate of these upgrades, as well as those across the rest of the store estate, “will be constrained by how quickly I can get capital, but I know Stefano [Pessina’s, executive vice chairman and chief executive of Walgreens Boots Alliance] intention is that we invest in a Boots fit for the next two decades”.

Store gallery: Inside Boots’ new-look London flagship