Turner diagnosis may be just the remedy for Boots

Jon Turner’s appointment at Boots the Chemists brings good news for an industry experiencing the winter chill, with many key players just hoping to coast on till Christmas.

Speculation about the Boots job has been rife since Pentagram partner John McConnell quit his external design advisory role in the summer (DW 18 July) after more than 20 years with the Nottingham-based retailer. It was confirmed that a full-time post was in the offing, but the title, nature and location of the job appeared to change as the months went by.

Rumour within design shifted from murmurs that Harry Pearce of Lippa Pearce – a Boots stalwart – was taking on McConnell’s job, external or otherwise, to reports that the position had been dumbed down to being a management function concerned purely with implementing design.

Against this background, news that Turner, a seasoned trouper at The Body Shop before he joined Enterprise IG exactly two years ago, is taking the helm in a new role comes as a welcome surprise.

Turner’s remit as London-based creative director promises to be broader than McConnell’s, taking in store presentation and other design issues across all of Boots’ interests, as well as the packaging for its many own-label lines. His appointment comes at a time when Boots, known for its entrepreneurial approach and use of good design, is under pressure to improve its performance. This bodes well for design at Boots, for the in-house team and on the consultancy side.

The only potential thorn in the side for consultancies is the strategic deal struck in 2000 between Boots and Sir Martin Sorrell that favours creative agencies within Sorrell’s WPP Group across the board of disciplines, though not exclusively.

On the face of it, the appointment of Turner, a WPP alumnus through his stint at Enterprise IG, will give advantage to his former employer. It continues to shift its emphasis from business-to-business to consumer-facing clients in the wake of damaging events such as the decline of hitherto financial giant Andersen, at one time its key client. But we look to him to draw on his wealth of consultancy experience pre-Body Shop at Fitch and Imagination to have the vision to bring in the right talent for the job, regardless of its parentage.

Ironically, as a WPP player with direct retail experience, Turner had a hand in writing the brief for the job he starts officially on Monday. With that advantage on his side, we look to him to rise to the challenge not only of boosting Boots’ position against rivals like Marks & Spencer, but also in building on the strong ties the self-styled ‘nation’s chemist’ already has with design.

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