Yesterday I went up to a very chilly Nottingham to the Boots factory where I had an unexpectedly fabulous time. The Boots plant is vast – basically, it’s like BootsLand, with hundreds of different units all housing various components of the business from Customer Services to Archives to the actual factory itself and a myriad of road networks within the site to connect everything up. Boots have never taken bloggers (I had the good fortune to be with http://www.cosmeticcandy.com/) round the factory or units before so it was a bit of learning curve on both sides. We kicked the day off with skin scientific advisor Mike Bell (who, I am happy to report has exceptionally good skin himself) with a presentation and heated chat about SPFs and Vitamin D. My theory is that we are now reporting in the UK huge levels of vitamin D deficiency and I feel it is partly because we are scared to go in the sun without SPF50 slathered all over. I think (and I’m no scientist, remember) that a certain amount of sun directly on the skin each day is essential to maintain Vitamin D and wellbeing. (I don’t advocate basking on a rock at mid-day with no sunscreen though.). Mike has played a key role in developing SPFs for Boots and of course, the famous Protect & Perfect (which I spent the entire day inexplicably being unable to pronounce without fluffing it). Anyway, Mike went through how skin reacts in the sun and the radical difference between skin that has been sun protected and skin that hasn’t – let’s just say it involved a nun, a sun worshipper and his favourite gadget, the ‘Cutometer’ which to my disappointment doesn’t measure how cute you are, but how bouncy your skin is. Mike is also an advocate of letting skin get ‘incidental’ sun and the use of SPF15 as adequate protection to still absorb optimum levels of Vitamin D. After that, it was a whistle-stop tour of a beauty addict’s dream!
|The Boots Lab where Protect & Perfect was conceived.|
|A personal batch of Protect & Perfect being made.|
|Eek…that’s what it looks like until it’s been whisked!|
|A foundation base at inital stages..|
|Shop floor conditions (including heat and light) replicated to test for longevity.|
|The ‘Cutometer’! (My skin was above average bouncy for its age – or maybe they lied).|
Boots have thousands of testers who come in voluntarily to test everything from false lashes to skincare. Testing is a serious business, with products tested to the nth degree.
|Inside the factory.|
|This is where toothpaste is made – it smelled very minty!|
|Protect & Perfect Jars being filled.|
The factory was fascinating: we had to don hairnets (argh), protective glasses and white coats. The building is vast (it is now a protected building because of its historical value), and there are lines and lines of bottles being lined, filled, labelled and packed. Boots makes for other brands, such as Aussie shampoo (apparantly one of the most complicated products to perfect), Soap & Glory and D&G Fragrance, and for popular products, the lines literally work 24/7 pumping out tube after tube after tube. It is difficult to describe just how vast this place is and the sense of industry is almost overwhelming. In one corner a production line might be producing shampoo, in another, mouthwash, and in another eye cream. Each vast batch of ingredients has to be correctly calibrated to produce exactly the consistency required (small batches are made in-lab, but translating it to bulk batches is a whole other area of expertise). I was pleased to see that Boots hasn’t given everything to the machines; there were plenty of people milling about, but disappointed that gift sets where items are made singly in the UK are sent to the Far East to be bundled together and packaged and then sent all the way back to the UK to be sold. That’s a lot of air miles – and I’m not even someone who is overly concerned about carbon footprints.
Our last stop was the Archive centre:
|A vintage Boots gift box.|
|Hmm, you’d never catch Tyra giving an up the nose view.|
|Oh yes, the 70′s and Mr Pearl Diver!|
|A Pre-1920′s Boots Vanity Case|
|OMG! A face mask for 54p from the 70′s.|
|This *rouge* is from the 20′s or 30′s..it is still as vibrant today as it was then.|
|A gorgeous lipstick set embossed with stars from 75 years ago.|
So, where do all these old products come from? Mainly, members of the public find them and are kind enough to send them back to Boots. They’ve got thousands and thousands of products dating back many, many years, including old signage, hat stands, wooden chairs, magazines for sales assistants, skin care, tins of talc – you name it, they have it.
I really wondered what a visit to the home of Boots could possibly bring, but I must say that seeing industry in action, the care for heritage and the sheer vastness of the Boots empire has opened my eyes and brought it to life in a way that a visit to my high street branch never could.
It’s impossible without creating the world longest blog post to tell you everything we saw and did, but if you have any questions, please ask away!