BOOTHS: The story behind the growth of a key Lancashire store

Edwin Booth, of Booths Supermarkets.
Edwin Booth, of Booths Supermarkets.
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Aspiring businessman Edwin Henry Booth borrowed £80 in goods from a Preston grocer who taught him his trade - and established a supermarket empire that would last generations.

The 19-year-old tea dealer used the loan to open The China House in Blackpool in 1847. Just three months later, he had repaid the debt and made a profit of £50.

Pictures from a new book on the history of Preston supermarket chain Booths.

Pictures from a new book on the history of Preston supermarket chain Booths.

That was just the start of the Booths story.

Five generations of the family have now taken E.H. Booth & Co. Ltd from its humble beginnings to the present day where the company boasts 31 food, wine and grocery stores across Lancashire, Cumbria and Cheshire.

Back in the 1800s, Edwin Henry Booth extended his stock and was committed to searching for the best goods he could find.

It was a search that took him to France in 1855 and to the discovery of Count Simon’s French coffee, a product that was still sold in Booths stores until recently.

We still have one aim that was the inspiration of the first EH Booth, to sell the best goods he could buy in shops staffed with first class assistants.

Edwin Booth

Under the leadership of Edwin Henry Booth’s eldest son John, the stores were enlarged and cafés were added in 1902.

The rapidly-developing café society helped the pastime of taking tea to become more fashionable, especially in seaside resorts.

John recognised the enthusiasm of staff by offering all the assistants a bonus on company profits and in 1920 the staff were invited to become shareholders.

Changes in the licensing laws allowed him to move into the wine and spirits trade in 1863, and new branches of EH Booth & Company were opened in Lytham in 1879 and Blackburn in 1884.

Edwin Henry Booth, the founder of the supermarket chain which bears his name - Booths

Edwin Henry Booth, the founder of the supermarket chain which bears his name - Booths

The company’s expansion has continued ever since. Its head office and distribution depot is now based at Longridge Road, Preston.

Current Booths chairman Edwin Booth says: “What we cook, shop and eat is part of social history. I’m particularly proud of the heritage of Booths, and that history informs how we operate today.

“We still have one aim that was the inspiration of the first EH Booth, to sell the best goods he could buy in shops staffed with first class assistants.”

Last year Booths recorded solid year end results against the backdrop of “a difficult retail market”.

In a year with no new store openings, the business recorded a sales growth of just over one per cent with total sales of £282 million with profits before tax rising by 6.9 per cent.

Booths also said it was aiming to open five new stores by 2016, starting with Barrowford in December, and Hale Barns earlier this month.

Work on new stores in Poulton le Fylde and St Annes is still under way.

But the firm announced the closure of its store in Highfield Road, Blackpool, this week.