Boots to close around 200 stores
Union leaders have demanded talks after one of Britain's biggest retailers, which runs branches in Bourne, Holbeach, Long Sutton and Spalding, confirmed it is planning to shut around 200 stores.
Boots officials played down the possibility of cuts when the claims first emerged last month.
But the company has today admitted a closure programme will be implemented over the next 18 months.
And officials from the shopworkers' union Usdaw have hit out at what they see as the latest evidence of the "crisis" affecting Britain's high streets.
National officer Daniel Adams said: “This is clearly very worrying news for the staff in all Boots stores particularly given the company’s earlier denials.
"Usdaw will be doing all it can to support members during this difficult time. It is only fair that staff are treated with dignity and respect, which is best achieved by giving them a voice through their trade union.
"We urge the company to engage with Usdaw as the trade union for Boots retail staff to ensure that all avenues to minimise job losses are explored during this critical time."
Mr Adams added: “This issue is not confined to Boots. Our high streets are in crisis and we need the government to adopt a clear and coherent strategy for retail, to address the worries and concerns of shopworkers and our members.
"Usdaw has developed a retail strategy and we hope it will be a catalyst for a combined and concerted effort to tackle the growing retail crisis and save our shops.”
It is unclear which of the local branches, if any, will be affected, though Sebastian James, managing director of Boots UK and ROI, said the programme would largely focus on local pharmacy branches.
He said: "We believe this is the right thing to do as it means that we can invest more in staffing those stores while not reducing our 90 per cent coverage within a 10-minute drive of a Boots.
"At the same time, we continue to open new stores where we believe there are communities that would benefit from a new Boots."
Mr James said the company was "not immune" from the challenges facing high street companies.
But he added: “We’re transforming the experience for customers when they shop with us and our focus is on making our stores and online offer even more differentiated and personalised, with the best brands at the best value.
"We’re working very hard through these plans and I’m excited about what this means for the future of Boots. What we’re doing today is about ensuring our future success.”