Boots UK sales and profits have fallen in the fourth quarter as retailers continued to struggle with the challenging high street environment.

However, owner Walgreens Boots Alliance said in its 2019 full-year results that “encouragingly” UK market share in the three months to 31 August had been maintained despite the tough conditions. Performance in beauty had been a “good”, it added.

Comparable retail sales at Boots UK dipped 3.1% in the quarter and 2.6% for the financial year as the UK market continued to be “very challenging”.

Revenues for the retail pharmacy international division - which includes Boots in the UK, Thailand, Norway, the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands, as well as Benavides and Ahumada pharmacies in Mexico and Chile respectively - slipped 6.3% year on year in the final quarter to $2.7bn (£2.1bn).

Sales decreased by 1.8% on a constant currency basis, mainly because of a 2.1% decline in Boots UK.

Gross profits for the division plunged 9.9% compared with the same quarter a year ago as a result of the challenges in the UK market, with operating profits plummeting from $230m to $49m.

Full-year revenues for the international arm fell from $12.3bn in 2018 to $11.5bn. Operating profits were down from $824m to $438m.

Walgreens Boots Alliance total sales for the year increased 4.1% to $136.9bn as its US performance improved.

The group also raised its annual cost savings target from in excess of $1.5bn to more than $1.8bn by the 2022 financial year. Walgreens Boots Alliance has already earmarked 200 UK stores for closure, as well as 200 more Walgreens outlets in the US, as part of the cost-cutting measures.

“I am pleased with the progress that we have made in the re-boot of one of Britain’s best-loved retailers. Our new stores are trading well and the work that we have done in reinvigorating our beauty and digital businesses is bearing encouraging early fruit,” said Boots UK & ROI MD Seb James.

”Nevertheless we are aware that this is a journey and that market headwinds have been strong and look likely to remain so for some time. Though we have declined in like-for like terms this year, I am glad that we have retained share across the board and grown significant share in beauty and pleased with the progress we’re making to digitise our pharmacy offer. As we start to roll our initiatives out at scale, I hope and anticipate that we will begin to see the business drive forward.

I am very proud to be the steward of this brand and to be working with such committed and lovely people. Boots is one of the strongest retailers in the UK right now, not just in terms of its financial position, but, much more importantly, in terms of the mutual care and love that it shares with its customers.”

Executive vice chairman and CEO Stefano Pessina added: “We are pleased to report fiscal 2019 results in line with our previously stated guidance despite a challenging operating environment.

“We are also making progress on our four strategic priorities, which we remain confident are positioning us to deliver long-term growth. While we still face headwinds, I am encouraged by the improvement in US comparable sales performance in the second half of fiscal 2019 and our progress in managing costs in order to save to invest to grow”