Boots plots review of £44m business

Boots is gearing up to review its £44 million creative advertising account, currently held by J. Walter Thompson, in a move that threatens its £80 million global marketing alignment with WPP.

It is unclear if the retailer, whose profits fell almost 17 per cent last year, will ask the nine-year incumbent, JWT, to repitch for the business.

Boots has yet to draw up a shortlist but it is thought Mother, Clemmow Hornby Inge and Bartle Bogle Hegarty will be contacted when the review kicks off.

It has yet to emerge if MindShare's media planning and buying account, also part of the global WPP deal, will be included in the review.

In January, Boots hired the former Masterfoods marketer, Anne Francke, to take the role of director of strategic marketing and development. Francke, who replaced Barry Clare after less than a year in the role, is responsible for building the Boots brand.

The review comes amid difficult trading times for the retailer. Francke has already started an operational review that is likely to see widespread job losses with the goal of saving up to £100 million across the business.

The ambitious strategy of diversification employed by the outgoing chief executive, Steve Russell, has seen Boots founder in its attempt to become a broad health, beauty and lifestyle brand.

In a bid to focus on its core retail business, earlier this year Boots closed its Wellbeing Services arm, which offered complementary health remedies, scrapped its joint venture with J Sainsbury, and halted expansion plans for its Pure Beauty stores.

Competition from grocery heavyweights has also damaged its market share.

According to Verdict Analysis, Boots' position as number one in the health and beauty market has remained static at around 26 per cent since 1999, while its closest rivals, Tesco and Asda, have significantly increased their share.

In May, Boots announced the appointment of Richard Baker, Asda's chief operating officer, as its new chief executive. He joins in September.

In 2000, Boots pooled its entire global marketing business into WPP in a deal understood to have been brokered by the WPP group chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell, and Russell.

Under the deal, JWT, which already handled the creative for Boots the Chemist, picked up the Boots Opticians business from Grey Advertising and the creative task for Boots Retail International, which was previously handled by McCann-Erickson.

The advertising for Boots Healthcare International, which houses Crookes Healthcare brands including Optrex, Strepsils, Nurofen and Clearasil, remains with McCann.