THE high street institution Boots The Chemist could close more than 200 shops over the next two years.

The axe will fall because of a cost-cutting review by the chain’s American owner, it is reported.

Boots, which has been on British high streets since 1849, has 2,485 UK stores, with around 56,000 staff.

It has dozens of stores in high streets, shopping centres and surgeries in Dorset and the New Forest.

The axing of Boots branches would be the latest blow to a beleaguered high street which has seen several big name retailers go out of business, while others struggle with falling demand and crippling debt.

Boots has said it does not expect a “major programme” of store closures but does review “underperforming stores and opportunities for consolidation”.

“We are being realistic about the future and that we will need to be agile to adapt to the changing landscape,” it told the BBC.

Some shops would close at the expiry of their leases, Sky News reported, while others would be part of a consolidation in towns which currently have two Boots stores.

The business is owned by the American company Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA).

In Bournemouth, it has branches at the Square, Castlepoint, Westbourne, Boscombe, Wallisdown, Moordown, Southbourne, Royal Bournemouth Hospital and at Beaufort Road Surgery.

In Poole, there are branches at the Dolphin Centre, Poole High Street, Poole Commerce Centre at Branksome, Upper Parkstone, Canford Heath, Broadstone, Hamworthy and Corfe Mullen Hadleigh Lodge Surgery.

Christchurch has branches at Saxon Square and Twynham Avenue, with another at Bransgore.

Elsewhere in Dorset, branches include Ferndown, Wimborne, Swanage and Wareham, while in the New Forest there are Boots stores at Ringwood, New Milton and Lymington.

The crisis on Britain’s high streets saw the disappearance last year of famous retailing names Toys R US, Maplin and Poundworld.

Other big names, such as Homebase, Mothercare, Carpetright and New Look have been closing stores under restructuring plans which have involved cutting their liabilities to landlords and other creditors.

The axe is also expected to fall on more branches of Debenhams, House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer.