Booths has promoted its chief operating officer Chris Dee to chief executive ahead of the “largest and most ambitious expansion” in its history.

The upmarket northern supermarket has also appointed Mike Thomson to the operating board as estates director as the retailer gears up to open five new stores in a 12-month period.

Family-owned Booths prides itself on its slow growth and focuses on organic expansion in order to safeguard levels of service.

Dee is being promoted to the newly created chief executive role after 20 years at the retailer. He joined as a wine and spirits buyer in 1995, before rising to the level of chief operating officer in 2012. Booths will not be replacing him as chief operating officer.

Booths chairman Edwin Booth said, “I have tremendous confidence in Chris Dee to continue to grow and develop the business. He has the vision, and crucially, the ability to share that vision and inspire others to follow him.” 

Dee is credited with “forging strong and resilient links with suppliers” and pioneering the Fair Milk scheme, which pledges to pay dairy famers the highest farm gate price in the market.

It is commitment to fair practice that has led to the grocer’s reputation as an “enlightened” retailer, according to Booth.

Booths’ approach contrasts sharply with that of Tesco, which has been criticised for its negotiations with suppliers and is consequently being investigated by the Groceries Code Adjudicator.

Thomson joined Booths in 2004 after a number of roles in construction and civil engineering.

During his decade at Booths he has managed the construction of 11 new stores and the relocation of distribution and central office facilities.

Booth said Thomson’s appointment to the operating board “brings considerable skill and experience in construction and engineering at a critical time in Booths’ development.”

He is overseeing the opening of the five stores, which include the Barrowford store that opened in December, a Hale Barns store that is scheduled for April and stores in Burscough, St Anne’s and Poulton-le-Fylde that will open later this year.

In a challenging grocery environment, Booths reported like-for-likes were down 0.8% over Christmas.

Total sales increased 0.6% in the six weeks to January 3 and were driven by home delivery and collect-in-store orders, which rose 34%.