Jessie Boot was born in Nottingham in 1850. His father, John Boot, owned a herbalist shop but he died when Jessie was only a child. Jessie left school at the age of thirteen and helped his mother run the family business. In his spare-time he studied pharmacy and in 1877 opened his first chemist shop.
Boot realised that the established chemists in Nottingham had a price-fixing policy. He therefore decided to sell his goods cheaper than the other chemists. Boot advertised in the Nottingham Daily Express that the 128 items in his shop at Goose Gate were being sold at reduced prices. He also employed a bell-ringer to tour the streets of Nottingham informing the public of Boot's policy. This campaign was a great success and within a month the takings of the shop had doubled.
Jessie Bootwas a devout Methodist who was deeply concerned about the poverty he saw in Nottingham. He believed that his lower prices would enable the poor to buy goods that previously they could not afford. Later Boot renamed his shop The People's Store.
At that time doctors made up their own prescriptions after diagnosing what was wrong with their patients. The cost of prescriptions were high and this often stopped the poor from receiving the medical help they needed. Boot decided to break this monopoly by employing E. S. Waring, a young chemist, to provide prescriptions. On average the cost of these prescriptions were less than half those charged by the doctors. This was a great success and helped Boot expand his business.
By 1896 Jessie Boot owned sixty shops in twenty-eight different towns. Jessie's wife, Florence, played an active role in the business. It was her idea to rent books in their chemist shops. The Boots' Book-Lovers Library charged borrowers 2d per book. This also helped the chemist trade as the library counter was always placed in a position where customers had to walk through the length of the shop to get their books.
Jessie retired in 1920 but he continued to be involved in charity work and it has been estimated that he gave over £2 million to the people of Nottingham. In 1929 he was granted the title, Lord Trent of Nottingham. Jessie Boot died in 1931. Two years later, Florence Boot opened the 1,000 Boots shop in Galashiels.