Edwin Booth - a lifetime at the forefront of the Lancashire food industry
- Credit: Phil Tragen
Edwin Booth CBE has been at the heart of the family-run supermarket for almost 50 years and is still driven by the ethos that led his great-great-grandfather to found the business.
Edwin Booth is the fifth generation to head the eponymous northern supermarket chain. Known affectionately in the business as Mr Edwin, he shares the ethos and a deep understanding of the legacy of the first EH Booth, his namesake and great-great-grandfather who founded the business in 1847.
Edwin Henry Booth was orphaned at the age of 11, by age 19 he was a tea dealer, opening his first shop in Blackpool. His aim was ‘to sell the best food and drink available, in attractive stores, staffed with first class assistants’ - and that chimes with the current chairman's approach, as does a commitment to philanthropy. The first EH Booth was a founding trustee of the Harris Childrens’ Homes, now the Harris charity, which supports young people in difficulty, ensuring their talents are not limited by a lack of opportunity.
That desire to make a difference drives Edwin, both within Booths and outside the business. Edwin remains a trustee of the Harris charity as well being a founding trustee of the Prince’s Countryside Fund and has been a fervent and effective supporter of many charities across Lancashire and beyond.
In June 2011, Edwin was appointed Chair of the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership, a post he held for more than seven years, and he has worked with Lancashire’s universities in the areas of leadership and business change programs, receiving an Honorary Doctorate from the Lancaster University for his services to the region and industry. He chaired the Business in the Community Advisory Board for the North West from 2007 to 2014 where he was instrumental in developing a program to engage schools with business.
In 2019, Edwin was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s New Year Honours list for services to business and charity and earlier this year he was appointed High Sheriff of Lancashire.
‘Edwin has a deep love and support of Lancashire and everything associated with Lancashire,’ says his wife, Anne. ‘He is a true believer in working very hard to reap rewards and our daughters say this has been instilled into them. He sets very high standards but is also very supportive, helpful and genuinely down to earth.’
And Edwin’s brother Graham, who has worked alongside Edwin since 1980, adds: ‘Edwin doesn’t separate his head from his heart—or indeed his stomach. He leads with emotion and that’s a good thing. It makes people trust him and he radiates warmth. His enthusiasm, energy and appetite to share great food and drink has transformed not only Booths, but hundreds of food businesses in the north.’
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Edwin entered the business in 1973 and quickly discovered an enthusiasm for retailing. Sourcing fine wine was his speciality for many years, and gave Booths national recognition for the quality on its shelves. Finding the best food and drink became Edwin’s job and passion and colleagues say he has repeatedly demonstrated a flair for finding special, undiscovered gems.
Edwin has put provenance and local sourcing at the forefront of Booths but it is his infectious enthusiasm for retailing that sets him apart.
Nick Kenyon, managing director of Garstang’s Dewlay Cheese, says: ‘You cannot overestimate what Edwin has done for small food producers around the North West over the last 40 years. Many of the region’s best food producers are here because Edwin believed in them and was prepared to stock their products in his stores. We, like many other businesses, owe a debt of gratitude to him for supporting us and for championing local and regional producers.’
Jonathan Warburton, the head of another famous Lancashire business bearing a family name, added: ‘There is no greater supporter of food and drink in the north.’