Booths is often referred to as the northern Waitrose because of its focus on high-quality fresh food and Waitrose MD Mark Price said the deal would take advantage of the many synergies between the two retailers.
“There are already many similarities between the Waitrose and Booths brands in terms of our focus on food quality, the provenance of our products and customer service. This alliance will benefit customers of both Waitrose and Booths for the long term by ensuring prices within both shops are highly competitive through greater supply efficiencies.”
Edwin Booth, Booths’ chairman, added: “We are looking forward to the alliance enabling us to continue to trade strongly to the benefit of our customers.”
But Aidan Bocci, chief executive of business consultancy Commercial Advantage, speculated that the move may enable Waitrose to find out more about Booths before making a bid. “They are looking to create efficiencies within the supply chain,” he said. “Merging may well be one of the options going forward. Forming a strategic alliance helps move the companies along the right road.”
This was vigorously denied. A Waitrose spokeswoman said it would “absolutely not” happen and a Booths spokeswoman insisted: “This is just a buying alliance.” Waitrose added there would be no merging of supply or distribution. “Should the alliance be successful, this will put Booths in a position to be more competitive on branded goods,” said a Booths spokeswoman.
The move follows the decision by Booths in July to end its buying alliance with Nisa-Today’s. It will officially cut ties with Nisa at the end of the year.