Lancashire supermarket chain Booths has been forced to call in accountants for a review of the business.
Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC have reportedly drafted in Grant Thornton to conduct an independent bank review of the business.
These are turbulent times for the retail industry, which is rife with conjecture
Booths made a loss of £6.2m in its last financial year, and there have been reports that the family-run firm is over-stretched.
A spokesman for Booths would not comment on Grant Thornton’s involvement.
The company was founded in Blackpool in 1847.
But executive chairman and CEO Edwin Booth said in a statement: “Booths is a resilient 170-year-old family owned retailer with strong brand loyalty and leadership in place. These are turbulent times for the retail industry, which is rife with conjecture and speculation.
“We have an effective plan and team in place to ensure Booths remains a much-loved retailer for our customers here in the North.
“We’re focusing on delivering the best service, products and value to our customers.”
Flood damage, staff changes and the cost of new stores all pushed the Lancashire chain into the red in its last financial year.
The firm said sales were down by just 0.7 per cent, held back in part by continued food deflation in a highly charged retail market.
They were further affected by the closure of two key stores following the catastrophic flooding in Booths’ heartland.
And underlying trading profits reduced from £3.1m to £2.6m as a result of the turbulent retail market and the costs associated with opening and supporting four new stores in one year.
Booth said the opening of four new stores – Hale Barns, Burscough, Poulton and St Annes – and the closure of several others had put pressure on the business but it had shown resilience.
The family firm has almost 30 stores across the North West from Cumbria to Cheshire.
Earlier this year CEO Chris Dee left the business. Mr Dee admitted last year the company needed to do better in certain areas.
He said: “Maybe we took our eye off the ball while were coping with all the other stuff. We didn’t do a good enough job for our customers. That’s a lesson we have learned.
“We have made a lot of progress since last year in that regard and we are constantly listening to what our customers tell us.” Grant Thornton has not commented.