Surging demand for health food and dietary supplements has made high street stalwart Holland & Barrett a household name with a global footprint. Founded in 1870 by Alfred Slapps Barrett and Major William Holland as a single grocery store in Bishop’s Stortford, it now stocks 9,000 products ranging from Valerian root to vegan protein shakes at 1,300- plus stores as far afield as Sweden and Hong Kong.
International sales accounted for a quarter of its £697.3m revenue last year, up 6%. Now based in Nuneaton, it has 225 stores in India, 164 in Holland and 18 in Belgium. It also ships directly to consumers across Europe via its website, which saw sales leap by a third to £70.7m.
In Britain and Ireland, where the company has almost 800 stores, it is taking on the fast-growing “free-from” market, with plans to stock 3,000 products for food allergy sufferers. It is also rebranding to highlight its green credentials – last month it stopped selling wet wipes to reduce environmental damage – and position itself as the retailer of choice for environmentally and health-conscious consumers.
Under the ownership of L1 Retail, the company’s ambitions are global. The investment fund, led by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, bought it for £1.8bn in 2017 from private equity firm Carlyle, the owner since 2010. Holland & Barrett has outlined a 10-year strategy that will see the business become bigger outside Britain than inside it, and triple sales to £2bn.
A leadership reshuffle has ensued, with the former Travis Perkins chief operating officer Tony Buffin, 47, named chief executive in May, replacing Peter Aldis, who held the role for 10 years. Meanwhile, Steve Carson, 51 – a former director at Argos and Sainsbury’s – was promoted to group managing director.
The global health and wellbeing market is fiercely competitive. Pressure from companies such as Amazon, which bought the upmarket chain Whole Foods for $13.7bn in 2017, has made digital innovation essential. Holland & Barrett has responded with the appointment of its first chief technology officer as it aims for a greater share of the market – estimated to be worth $4.2 trillion.
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