175 Years of Booths and Counting

by Abigail Blain


One hundred and seventy five years ago, in June 1847, tea dealer Edwin Henry Booth at just 19 years of age secured a loan of £80 to open his first shop, The China House in Blackpool. Edwin Booth’s flair for business and advertising allowed him to repay the debt just three months later, making a profit of £50. He continued to capitalise on this earlier success by opening a second, larger shop in 1855 in the market town of Chorley.

Edwin Henry Booth

By 1863, Edwin had developed a keen application and admiration for the quality of his goods. And, thanks to the changes in UK licensing laws, Booths added wine and liquor to their range. Three more locations were added to the estate in the following years, Preston in 1867, Lytham in 1878 and Blackburn in 1884.

In 1899, Edwin’s eldest son John Booth took over the responsibility of running the family business. In 1896, Booths was incorporated as a private limited company and shortly afterwards a colleague bonus scheme was proposed based on company profits. By 1902, Mr John had enlarged the stores and added cafés in line with the rapidly-developing café society of the upper to middle classes, partaking in morning and afternoon tea.

Booths continued to thrive during the Great War years, and as a sign of prosperity colleagues were invited to become shareholders in 1920, a somewhat novel concept for the times. The ensuing inter-war years saw one of the fastest expansion periods in the company’s history, opening 8 new shops in twelve years.

Sell the best goods available, in attractive stores, staffed with first class assistants.

The succeeding years however proved more challenging due to the post-austerity of world war two and the social revolution that was occurring at the time. In 1951, John Kenyon Booth (known as Kenny) the younger of two sons became chairman, supported by his eldest brother Edwin Henry Booth (known as Major Wyn).

A self-service Booths store

Between the 50s and 80s Booths undertook a significant redevelopment of its estate, refurbishing cafes and relocating smaller shops to much larger premises with supporting car parks. Specialist trades were also incorporated such as bakers, greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers and confectioners.

In 1962, the first of Booths shops were converted to self-service whilst still retaining a high degree of personal customer service. New warehouses were built to service the broadening product range.

In 1970, John Booth took over as chairman from his late father, supported by his brother Michael Booth. John realised that the requirements of the modern era were greater than the family alone could provide and invited three non-family members to join the board between the 60s and 70s.

In the years that followed Booths flourished expanding into new regions, opening stores at Windermere, Ulverston, Kirby Lonsdale, Knutsford, Ilkley, Settle and Hesketh Bank. Each store was unique in its own right with superlative architecture designed to blend in with neighbouring buildings and environments. Under his stewardship, the company subsequently doubled in size between 1990 and 2000.

175 years later, five generations of the Booth family successfully led E.H Booth & Co Ltd from its humble beginnings. The current chairman Edwin J. Booth became chairman in 1997 and is supported by younger brother Graham. From a single shop to the present day the company now proudly boasts no fewer than 27 stores across Northern England, employing around 3,000 people.

Specialist butchers

In 2005, Booths moved its central warehouse production and distribution centre to state-of-the-art premises in Longridge, Preston. This helped facilitate the manufacturer and wholesale of Booths own label range which in turn has been recognised nationally for it superior taste and quality.

To be loved by our customers for inspiring and nourishing their desire for excellent food and drink

Booths is consistently recognised as one of the best 100 businesses to work for in the country, winning numerous awards. Booths is renowned for it’s excellent wine and spirits departments and has won Decanter Wine Supermarket of the Year in 2020 and has been recently name Beer Retailer of the Year. Last year Booths was named business of the Year at the 2021 BIBA awards, celebrating excellence in business in Lancashire.

Edwin Booth

Booths continue to be committed to offering customers and the communities they serve a warm Northern welcome and friendly service, looking after both palates and pockets. Working closely with their suppliers to form strong and lasting relationships, ensuring the sustainability of British agriculture and the environment for future generations.

Today, upon the eve of its 175th year, five generations of the Booths family have developed the company from its humble beginnings. Booths now trades in 4 northern counties and over the past 25 years sales have almost trebled. Booths products are now available nationwide via a partnership with Amazon and the Booths brand remains synonymous with quality.

Central Office, Longridge, Preston

Edwin Booth said, “It is an enormous privilege to be the 5th generation to lead Booths. Booths is so much more than a business, it is a part of many peoples’ lives, from colleagues to customers, suppliers and communities.”

“As we embark on our 175th anniversary year, our celebrations will reflect the spirit of Edwin Henry Booth and celebrate the generations of talent, drive and initiative of the wider Booths family, our colleagues.”

Northern Life May/June 2022