Despite reporting a 48% drop in sales compared to the same three-month period last year across its 2,000 UK stores, Boots has been accused of trying to take advantage of the UK commercial evictions moratorium by withholding rent to the landlords of the buildings their stores occupy up and down the country.
Now, it isn’t for us to say whether or not they, as a company, have been adversely affected by the pandemic. As a matter of fact, we’re sure that they have been affected, but it isn’t their major shareholders who are likely to be worried about job security or putting food on the table this Christmas, is it?
Surely, it is the employees in their UK stores, who may have found their working hours reduced recently, who have the more pressing concerns.
You know, like job security and redundancies…
If Boots are unable to pay their rent, as they claim to be the case, surely there are worrying times ahead.
As many as 4,000 potential redundancies has been suggested as the worst-case scenario for the company, but in May 2019, long before the pandemic, 200 smaller stores were earmarked for closure.
Of this number, to date, only 75 have actually closed down, and it just seems as though there’s more than meets the eye to this story.
That’s what a large number of their commercial landlords think anyway, and the fact that Boots was deemed to be an essential shop, subsequently allowed to remain open throughout the lockdown, has only served to increase the suspicions about how their tenancy affairs are currently being handled.
Are they really unable to meet the terms of their contracts?
Are they prolonging the inevitable?
Just two of the questions that their commercial landlords will be weighing up right now, just as many more will be across the whole of the UK’s retail and hospitality rental sector.