A SUPERMARKET chain with a huge presence in Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire has dismissed as speculation reports that it may be sold.

National newspapers were claiming last week that Booths had brought in advisors to explore a potential sale following a period of financial turmoil.

In accounts filed with Company House last year, Booths reported losses of £6.3m. They had reported a £1.1m profit the previous year.

The floods were reported to have taken their toll on the business, with directors stating in the accounts that many of their “northern stores were seriously affected by Storm Desmond” in December 2015.

The retailer has 28 stores including ones in Kendal, Kirkby Lonsdale, Milnthorpe, Settle, Windermere, Ulverston and Carnforth.

A company spokesperson said: “Booths has been retailing for over 170 years and it remains a very strong, resilient and well-loved brand.

“One of our strengths has been our ability to adapt to changing market conditions and naturally, we always keep our strategic options open.”

Analysts believe that the chain could fetch close to £150m if it is sold.

There has been some speculation that Waitrose may be a potential buyer but a spokesman for the up-market southern chain told the Gazette: “We’ve admired Booths for many years and this is a significant moment in the history of the business for the family owners, employees and customers. But, as you’d expect, we don’t comment about any strategic intentions we may or may not have.”

The potential change of ownership could cause concern for farmers in Cumbria. Booths is widely known for its supportive approach to stocking local produce including Herdwick lamb, and for offering a fair price for milk.

Amanda Carson, secretary for the Herdwick Sheep Breeders’ Association, said: “Booths support local farmers by sourcing their produce. They source Herdwick lamb from farms within the Lake District.

“The whole ethos of Booths is to buy local and I would hope that it continues to do so if it changes ownership. That is the very reason why Booths is so fantastic and well-loved in the area.

“It goes beyond just the Herdwick lamb. It is everything they do to support farmers in the region. They are based in the North and buy from suppliers in the North. They are so important.”

Cllr Janette Jenkinson, a South Lakeland District councillor for Ulverston, tweeted her support for Booths and its role in the Furness town.

“Hope Booths have a re-think,” she wrote. “Quality grocer, fantastic ethical meat products, supports and buys local. Come on Ulverston lets support them before its to late.”

Booths has recently signed a deal to supply Amazon’s grocery venture AmazonFresh.

It remains 96 per cent owned by the Booth family, with the rest owned by staff. The current chairman is Edwin Booth, who also took over as chief executive following the departure of Chris Dee in May.