Grocer Booths up for sale for between £130m-£150m, says report

The upmarket grocery chain Booths has reportedly been put up for sale for between £130m-£150m.

Owned by the same family for five generations since tea dealer Edwin Henry Booth opened the first store in Blackpool in 1847, the supermarket chain has 28 locations across the north of England in Lancashire, Cheshire, Cumbria and Yorkshire.

The company, led by its executive chairman and chief executive, Edwin Booth, 62, has brought in advisers from the investment bank Rothschild to consider takeover bids, according to the Sunday Times. The family still hold 96% of the company’s shares; the remainder are owned by the staff.

Booths had earlier this year been forced to call in accountants to conduct a financial health check after a difficult 18 months. The company was badly hit by Storm Desmond in December 2015, which caused damage to several of its stores. It made an annual loss in the 12 months to the end of March 2016, the latest annual results available.

Retailers up and down the country have issued profit warnings this year, faced with tough trading conditions as household budgets come under pressure from inflation sparked by the weak value of the pound since the Brexit vote.

Chris Dee stepped down as chief executive of Booths in May after 22 years with the company. A cost-cutting drive in 2015 led to the loss of 100 jobs and a one-off charge of £1.6m. This resulted in the business posting a £6.3m loss in 2016, down from a £1.1m profit the previous year.

Booths has traded on its reputation for selling high-quality food and drink, as well as sourcing produce from farmers and suppliers in its home patch, becoming known as the “Waitrose of the North” by some retail commentators.

A spokeswoman said Booths always kept its “strategic options open”, adding: “Booths has been retailing for over 170 years and it remains a very strong, resilient and well-loved brand. One of our strengths has been our ability to adapt to changing market conditions.”