A household name in the United Kingdom, the high-street pharmacy chain Boots started when one John Boot set up an herbalist store in Nottingham in 1849. The less wealthy industrial classes, who couldn’t necessarily afford a doctor, would prove to be a strong early market for John, though the
business really took off when his son, Jesse, took over in 1871. Staying true to the company’s roots, Jesse concentrated on keeping prices down by buying products in bulk and selling them for a lower price than his competitors. He had clear plans to expand into a nationwide chain: In 1890 there were ten Boots stores; by 1914 there were five hundred and sixty; and by 1930 (after the company had been sold to the United Drug Company of America though it would be bought back by Jesse’s son), there were a whopping one thousand.27 In line with Jesse’s early work on expanding the business’s product range as well as its own brand items, in 1935 Boots introduced its No. 7 makeup range. Seventeen cosmetics, aimed at a younger market, launched in 1968. No. 7 quickly became something of a British institution, and its line of products is often British women’s first experience of cosmetics. Their packaging has undergone many changes over the years, from the very luxe metallic gold etched with gold stars in the 1950s to today’s sleek black plastic. No. 7 is now available in stores in many countries around the world, including Target in the United States. In 2012 American pharmacy giant Walgreens acquired a stake in the business and the full merger is now complete. The new company is known as Walgreens Boots Alliance, and to mark the end of an era, the headquarters will move from Nottingham to Chicago.
Although first launched in 1935 with simple, silver packaging, Boots No. 7 stopped production completely during WWII. It re-launched in the early 1950s with new Hollywood-inspired packaging covered in gold stars.