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The rise and fall of Booths: Beloved grocers founded in 1847 which was once voted one of the world’s greatest food retailers lost 3.2% of sales last year blaming inflation and the cost of living crisis


Booths, also known as the ‘Waitrose of the north’, rocketed to success after being opened by a teenager over 175 years ago – but the beloved grocers now faces an uncertain future amid a cost-of-living crisis. 

The upmarket supermarket announced it would be shutting down its 30,000 sq ft store in the affluent suburb of Hale Barns, Greater Manchester amid the squeeze sparked by inflation – and will be replaced by an Asda.

In an exemplary example of British business savvy, the high-end supermarket was launched in 1847 by tea dealer Edwin Henry Booth, who at just 19 years of age secured a loan of £80 – roughly £10,401 in today’s money –  to open his first shop, The China House in Blackpool.

The family-owned food and drink retailer rapidly developed over the years, introducing afternoon teas aimed at the middle to upper classes, thriving during the First World War , before landing 28 stores across Northern England today, and employing around 3,000 people.

Last Christmas, Booths boasted its best Christmas ever after achieving solid sales during the 12 weeks of the festive period. But the supermarket has not been immune to rising costs and the fallout from the pandemic.

Last Christmas , Booths boasted its best Christmas ever after achieving solid sales during the 12 weeks of the festive period

Booths Chairman and chief executive Edwin Booth, who is also the great-great-grandson of the stores founder, said he had ‘no doubt’ the rise in inflation would hit the store’s sales and profits in the 12 months leading up to April 2023.

He was correct in his estimation as sales slumped by 3.2 per cent to £287.3m in the year to 1 April 2023, according to accounts published at Companies House.

Back in 2022, Mr Booth warned that the grocer’s performance would be hit by the ‘extraordinary’ effects of Covid-19 as manic spending habits wore off.

But the retailer did get a reprieve this Christmas after sales rose by 6.3 per cent in the 12 weeks before Christmas.

Booths also rolled out its new Café 1847 – named after the year that the supermarket was started by its tea dealing founder – which boasts sumptuous menus of ‘seasonal food is food at its best’.

The concept café proved a hit with customers it turned around healthy profits with the overall café sales rising by 37 per cent.

In an exemplary example of British business savvy, the high-end supermarket was launched in 1847 by tea dealer Edwin Henry Booth

In an exemplary example of British business savvy, the high-end supermarket was launched in 1847 by tea dealer Edwin Henry Booth

At just 19 years of age secured a loan of £80 - roughly £10,401 in today's money - to open his first shop, The China House in Blackpool

At just 19 years of age secured a loan of £80 – roughly £10,401 in today’s money – to open his first shop, The China House in Blackpool

In 1970, John Booth took over as chairman from his late father, supported by his brother Michael Booth

In 1970, John Booth took over as chairman from his late father, supported by his brother Michael Booth

Booths continued to thrive during the first World War, and even invited staff to become shareholders in 1920 - a novel idea at the time

Booths continued to thrive during the first World War, and even invited staff to become shareholders in 1920 – a novel idea at the time

It has also been hit with some minor scandals in recent times.

The supermarket was blasted by shoppers after its was embroiled in a fake British beef row in March 2023, where it was selling meat falsely marked as having a British origin.

Booths said it had removed all affected meat with immediate effect from its stores after it was made aware of the issue.

In 2017, the northern supermarket branched out to London in a partnership with AmazonFresh, which also helped build up its profits and widened its customer-base.

Booths executive chairman, Edwin Booth told The Grocer: ‘The continued focus of the team to adapt, improvise and overcome the uncertainties of a challenging market has delivered a solid and sustainable platform for growth.

‘This was achieved by staying true to our purpose, inspiring and nourishing our customers desire for great food and drink.

‘I would like to thank all our Booths colleagues who have remained focused on maintaining Booths as a unique and special retailer, worthy of the title ‘The Good Grocers’.’

In 2006, Booths were declared second in a list of the World’s greatest Food Retailers, and was recognised as one of the best 100 businesses to work for in the country, winning countless awards.

However, Booths has overcome financial challenges in the past, when it was faced with the austerity measures imposed after world war two.

Booths said it felt customers get a better experience at manned checkouts and released a list of stores which would see self-service tills axed

Booths said it felt customers get a better experience at manned checkouts and released a list of stores which would see self-service tills axed

In 2006, Booths were declared second in a list of the World¿s greatest Food Retailers

In 2006, Booths were declared second in a list of the World’s greatest Food Retailers

In 2022, Mr Booth warned that the grocer's performance would be hit by the 'extraordinary' effects of Covid-19 as manic spending habits wore off

In 2022, Mr Booth warned that the grocer’s performance would be hit by the ‘extraordinary’ effects of Covid-19 as manic spending habits wore off

Prior to this, Booths has enjoyed a period of huge prosperity, with the inter-war years seeing one of the fastest expansion periods in the company’s history, and even invited staff to become shareholders in 1920 – novel concept at the time. 

Much to the delight of shoppers, Booths ditched self-checkouts in November last year in a commitment to customer service. 

Booths said it felt customers get a better experience at manned checkouts and released a list of stores which would see self-service tills axed.

The list included Ilkley and Ripon in Yorkshire, Kendal and Penrith in Cumbria, as well as Chorley and Clitheroe in Lancashire.

Two Booths branches that will kept their self-checkouts were Keswick and Windermere in Cumbria.

But other supermarkets are yet to follow suit – with Waitrose confirming they have no intention of getting rid of their self-checkouts, which have been in place since 2011.

In the meantime, news Booths in Hale Barns is selling its lease to Asda, which has held the title of Britain’s cheapest traditional supermarket for 26 years in a row at the Grocer Gold Awards, was greeted with dismay.

Writing on social media, one local resident called the change ‘a big loss for Hale Barns’, adding: ‘There is no way Asda will attract the same attention.’

Another local, business analyst Matt Whitaker, said: ‘Asda still won’t get the footfall Booths got and I don’t think the quality of Asda, Aldi or Lidl would entice shoppers in(to) the area.’



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