HIGH Street health and beauty chain Boots highlighted further pain for the retail sector today after it warned annual profits would fall below City hopes.

The group said it had been braced for a subdued market but that trading since its last update in January had "deteriorated further".

Boots now expects annual operating profits for its core Boots the Chemists chain to be in the range of £465 million and £475 million, compared with the £490 million and £500 million previously forecast by analysts.

The Nottingham-based company said the lower profits range reflected a slowdown in consumer spending across the high street, as well as the poorer outlook and slightly higher operating costs.

Boots, which completes its financial year at the end of this month, indicated in January that spending was likely to be subdued in its fourth quarter.