Alliance Manchester Business School - AMBS
Article By
Edwin Booth CBE

Edwin Booth

Executive Chairman of E.H.Booth & Co

Purpose Before Profit

Family owned and run Northern supermarket Booths is staying true to its roots.

Since 1847, Booths has been renowned for its top quality produce and service. Edwin Booth outlines the grocer’s vision and its driving philosophy.

Seen at face value, the title 'Purpose before Profit' may seem inappropriate to a business whose activity is to retail groceries and generate sufficient cash to renew ageing fabric and systems while providing the working capital to support the peaks and troughs of everyday trading.

Over its 175-year history, Booths has interpreted the founders' aims in many ways but never lost sight of Edwin Henry Booth's original aim: to buy the best merchandise he could find to sell in stores whose retailers understood human values and treated customers with respect.

Subsequent generations of the Booths family have brought differing emphasis to the business and constructed its management to address a plethora of economic and political events.


In 2017 it became apparent that the relationship between the family and senior management was creating ambiguity and a lack of clear accountability, with a hybrid board structure that had ceased to provide the quality of leadership that had the capability and dynamism to present the Booths brand in a modern and attractive way.

The operating board was therefore disbanded and the family board reconstructed and renamed the Company Board. From this moment there was to be a single family leader with a compact cadre of executive directors who would work alongside an emerging group of young skilled executives.

The 'Executive' now leads the Booths operations with a keen sense of purpose as expressed in the business' 'Purpose on a Page'.


The Purpose strips back the founder’s philosophy into the headings 'Dream', 'Beliefs', 'Character' and 'Focus', so that every colleague throughout the business is bound by the same idea. All 3,000 colleagues have a copy with the current business plan printed on the reverse so that no-one is left in any doubt over where Booths is headed!

Booths believes that the notion of brand goes far beyond corporate logos, pricing policy and market position, and that it is a living entity that can be best described as a movement of which customers feel a part.

The business understands that people feel good about the quality of interaction they have with Booths colleagues, the intrinsic quality and provenance of what is for sale in the stores, and the stimulus of shopping in environments which are pleasing to the senses with the judicious use of marketing 'noise'. Hence the company's 'Focus' is simply 'People Product Place'.


In the grocery market there is always media excitement about who is opening the most stores and generating the greatest growth, and who is the cheapest, and there is a question as to whether growth per se leads to long term sustainability.

Booths keeps a close eye on cash generation in order to reinvest in refurbishing shop floors whilst keeping operating systems up to date in order that new trading opportunities may be considered when the trading and economic background allows.

For the greater part of its history the business has grown organically, with some flurries of investment along the way which have not always enhanced the company’s financial performance.

People often ask what it is that makes the Booths family business special. It is inexorably generations of Booths who sense the founders' hunger to make customers feel good and who have the skills to balance the knowledge of smart business practice with the joy of retailing to a high standard.

They must be selfless and understand that they are 'there for the business' and its customers. Their name is over the door and, to use the Chairman’s motto, they are 'Servite in Laetitia' - there to 'Serve with Gladness'.

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