THE owner of retail chain Boots has warned over UK store closures as it looks to slash costs amid the 'most difficult' quarter in the group's history.

US-based Walgreens Boots Alliance said it had started taking 'decisive steps' in the UK to cut costs, including reviewing its near 2,500 Boots retail stores.

The group revealed it is looking at poor performing shops as well 'opportunities for consolidation'.

It follows the group's announcement in February that 350 jobs are at risk in its Nottingham head office amid plans to trim HQ staff costs by 20%.

It is also looking at ways to overhaul its pharmacy business.

The details come as owner Walgreens Boots Alliance reported a 2.3% drop in like-for-like UK retail sales in its second quarter to February 28, while comparable pharmacy sales dropped 1.5%.

Tough trading in the US also saw the wider group warn over full-year earnings, with boss Stefano Pessina branding it the 'most difficult quarter we have had since the formation of Walgreens Boots Alliance'.

He added: "Our response was not rapid enough given market conditions, resulting in a disappointing quarter that did not meet our expectations."

"We are going to be more aggressive in our response to these rapidly shifting trends.

"We are focusing on our operational strengths and addressing weaknesses."

Walgreens Boots Alliance was formed in 2014 after Walgreens bought the 55% stake in UK and Switzerland-based Alliance Boots that it did not already own.

Usdaw is calling on Walgreens Boots Alliance to enter into talks with the union after the company has warned of UK store closures.

Daniel Adams, Usdaw National Officer, said: “This is clearly very worrying news for the staff in all Boots stores and the Union will be doing all it can to support members during this difficult time.

"We would urge the company to engage with Usdaw as the trade union for Boots staff to ensure that all avenues to minimise job losses are explored during this critical time.”

Bonmarché jobs also under threat

It is not the only bad news for the high street today as jobs at Bonmarché are also under threat.

UK billionaire Philip Day has tabled a takeover bid for the chain which now has 312 shops specialising in clothing for the over 50s.

But national reports have quoted him warning he expected a 'material reduction' in headcount at the chain.