Boots roster to gain from Alliance Unichem merger

The proposed £7bn merger of Boots and Alliance Unichem will provide opportunities for Boots’ ‘creative hub’ of design groups, according to Boots creative director Jon Turner.

Turner has told rostered groups there will be discussions ‘about the opportunities we see ahead’ for the Boots brand under the resulting Alliance Boots company, a business with 2600 UK stores and over 300 outlets across continental Europe. However, Boots’ roster agreements do not guarantee any volume of work.

It remains unclear how the merger will affect Alliance Unichem’s retained brand consultancy Creative Leap, which is currently working on brand architecture and other projects for Alliance.

The merger would create one of Europe’s largest pharmacy and healthcare retail and wholesale businesses, with combined sales of £13bn.

The Alliance Boots headquarters will be in central London, though its retail and marketing operations are set to remain in Nottingham, where Boots was founded.

Alliance Unichem’s 939 Alliance Pharmacy and Moss-branded stores would be converted to the Boots format, which Turner has spent more than two years attempting to invigorate. The latest manifestation of this is Sedley Place in London (DW 5 May).

But questions have been raised as to how much work remains. According to Evolution Securities analyst Nick Bubb, the process of converting Alliance Unichem shops is likely to delay the ‘long overdue revamp’ of the main Boots chain.

‘Even new shops like Chapelfield, Norwich leave a lot to be desired, with better signage and sight lines but poor shelving and merchandising. There is still a disconnection between the shabby environment and the expensive products it is selling,’ he says.

Boots already distributes its own brand products in Europe, but pulled out of an attempt to run its own stores in the Netherlands five years ago after profits failed to meet targets. ‘[This deal] is cosmetic short term expediency,’ says Seymour Pierce head of equities Richard Ratner. ‘Stores in Europe didn’t work last time, so [this is a case of] better try something else.’

Boots’ Creative Hub

Amalgam, Checkland Kindleysides, Davies Hall, Dew Gibbons, Enterprise IG, Four IV, Household, Jupiter Design, LAPD, Lippa Pearce, Priestman Goode, Saturday, Virgile & Stone

The facts: Alliance Boots

• £7bn merger awaiting shareholder and regulator approval

• Boots to become retail brand of merged company

• Retail operations will remain in Nottingham

• No specific details so far of ‘opportunities’ for Boots’ design hub

• Creative Leap has outstanding projects for Alliance Unichem

• Brand potential for 312 Alliance Unichem international stores

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