Alliance Boots plc is the leading drugstore retailer in the United Kingdom and is also one of the largest pharmaceutical wholesalers in Europe. The company was formed in July 2006 through the merger of Boots Group PLC and Alliance UniChem Plc. Its retail side, which is led by the U.K. chain Boots The Chemists (BTC), includes 2,300 community pharmacies and health and beauty stores in the United Kingdom, 300 Boots Opticians practices in the United Kingdom, and 400 international pharmacies in the Republic of Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and Thailand. Among the stores' offerings are a range of proprietary Boots-owned brands, including Boots, No7, Soltan, and Botanics. On the wholesaling side, Alliance Boots distributes a full line of medicines and other healthcare products to more than 125,000 pharmacies, hospitals, and health centers in 14 countries: the Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Among the distributed products is the company's own line of generic drugs, which are manufactured by third-party suppliers and sold under the Almus brand. The history of Boots Group extends back to the opening of a small shop in Goosegate, Nottingham, in 1849, while Alliance UniChem was itself the product of a 1997 cross-border merger of UniChem PLC and Alliance Santé S.A., companies whose roots date back to 1938 and 1976, respectively. JESSE BOOT, FOUNDING FATHER
Jesse Boot, the founder of the company, was born in Nottingham in 1850, the first child and only son of John Boot and his second wife, Mary. An agricultural laborer by trade, John Boot was much influenced by the ideas of popular medicine then current among nonconformists, particularly those of the disciples of the American Samuel Thompson, whose remedies, based on medical botany, were then enjoying considerable success in Britain. After John Boot's health broke down, he opened a small shop called the British & American Botanic Establishment in 1849 in Goosegate, Nottingham, selling his own herbal and botanical medicines. His death in 1860 left his widow and her two children dependent on the shop for their livelihood, and Mary Boot continued to run the business with the help of her ten-year-old son. Three years later Jesse Boot left school to work full time in the business. In 1871 Mary and Jesse began operating their business as M and J Boot, Herbalists. Six years later, Jesse took full control of the shop.
In the 1870s, rising real incomes allowed the working class to purchase the patent and proprietary medicines of the kind manufactured and sold by Thomas Holloway and Thomas Beecham, displacing the remedies of medical botany. Although the shop in Goosegate continued to sell herbal medicines, young Jesse Boot started to expand the business, first by adding a range of household goods, including groceries, sold at cut prices; an advertisement of the early 1870s claimed more than 2,000 articles in stock. He decided in 1874 to enter the business of retailing proprietary medicines; as he recalled in 1904, he thought that "if he could afford to sell proprietary articles at prices lower than were being charged by the ordinary chemists, there would be a large future before him." Jesse Boot's commercial strategy, the basis on which he built his large and successful business, was to buy in large quantities from wholesalers and to sell at prices well below those prevailing in the town. It won for him the enduring hostility of the established chemists, first in Nottingham, and later in other towns and cities where he opened branches.
Although at first Boot had difficulties both in persuading the wholesalers to supply him with such large quantities and in finding the money to pay them, he secured the support of a number of influential businessmen and professional men in Nottingham, and, following an extensive advertising campaign in the local...
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