Retail: ‘Ethical’ Booths beats supermarket chains with 30% profit rise

Booths, Britain’s remaining independent supermarket group, is holding its own against competition from the big chains.

The Preston-based company saw a 30% increase in profit last year from £6.9m the year before as shoppers snapped up its locally sourced foods. Edwin Booth, the fifth generation family member to head the firm, said its ethical and environmental policies had helped Booths achieve a 4% rise in sales to £243m despite tough competition from the likes of Tesco.

Profits rose after the family invested £2m in a more efficient warehouse and distribution network. An environmental audit has been completed which should help cut carbon emissions and increase efficiency over the next few years.

Booths’ performance goes against current trends. Richard Hyman, strategic adviser for Deloittes’ consumer practice, said that a high level of competition in the British grocery market has driven out many independent stores.

He said: “Retail is a mix of art and science. The science element is more predominant in food retail and to survive and prosper as a smaller player you really have to be outstandingly good and understand your customers. You need a clear, distinctive proposition and to be very good at executing it.”

Booth said that when Booths consulted branding experts a few years ago he was surprised that the aspect of the business they picked up on was “human touch” and its links to communities through its locally sourced foods.

“That’s one thing that all our competitors find it hard to replicate,” he said. “When you go into a Booths store you feel you belong and there is a sense of community.”

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