Booths St Annes_038

Source: Booths

This is the first time Booths has posted pre-tax profits in six years

Upmarket supermarket chain Booths has returned to the black for the first time since 2015 after Covid demand drove an “extraordinary” bump in profits.

The retailer reported pre-tax profits of £1.9m for the 12 months to March 2021 – compared to a £4.1 million loss the previous year – after the pandemic contributed to higher trade.

A surge in shopper demand throughout lockdowns helped bring full-year sales to record levels of £284.1m – a 6.1% (or £16.3m) increase from the year before. Underlying EBITDA for the full year was up by £4.6m to £11.9m.

This is the first time the Lancashire-based chain, which has been around since the 19th century and is still run by the Booth family, has posted pre-tax profits in six years.

“The board continued to focus on transforming the business into a multi-faceted retailer, despite the ever-changing lockdown guidelines and are pleased to report that we are on track to restore sustainable profitable growth,” CEO Edwin Booth said.

“2020/21 was an extraordinary year in retail grocery and we encountered dramatic shifts in buying patterns which put our logistics, supply and retail teams under extreme pressure.

“It is a testament to the renewed culture throughout Booths that everyone was able to achieve high performance while ‘living in the moment’.”

He added that bouts of panic buying and an expectations-exceeding Christmas last year contributed to the overall revenue hike.

Despite the jump in sales, Booths has decided to keep business rates relief of around £0.5m after the business was impacted by a sharp drop in tourism activity in the Lake District, as well as the closure of its cafés for most of the year.

The company also decided to close down its Media City branch in Salford due to low footfall earlier this year.

Additionally, Booths did not use the government’s furlough job retention and opted to cover sick pay for its staff even when absence levels were high.

Even though it has not paid back the government support, the group has decided to pay dividends to its owners of 10p per share, for a total of £126,000.

Booths, also known as the ‘Waitrose of the North’, has added nearly 200 employees to its payroll during the past year, according to Companies House documents.

The chain, which was originally founded as a tea store in Blackpool in 1847, now has 27 stores and employs almost 2,800 people.

“The commitment shown by everyone throughout the past 18 months has been little short of magnificent and although hard at times with the altered working patterns, we have learned a lot about each other and how to combine thought and action into high performance,” the CEO said. “We are carrying this into 2021/22 and will work towards producing a report to be proud of in 12 months’ time.”