Doreen Lofthouse, the charitable widow who passed away in March earlier this year at 91, left £41 million to her Lofthouse Foundation, which finances philanthropic investment in Fleetwood, as reported by DailyMail.
This shop-girl-turned-entrepreneur made history for the Fisherman’s Friend brand, transforming it from a Lancashire docks-based company into an international corporation sold in over 120 countries.
Born in Fleetwood in 1930, Doreen left school at the age of 15 without any qualifications.
She worked as a secretary in the Lofthouse family-run chemist in the coastal town, famous for providing licorice medicinal remedies to local trawlermen.
In 1960, she married Alan Lofthouse, a descendant of the founder James Lofthouse, who worked in the family pharmacy, and they had a son named Duncan.
After her divorce from Alan in 1973, Doreen married Tony Lofthouse, who was 14 years her junior – and Alan’s nephew, in 1976. Tony began working for the company the same year as well.
Chemist James Lofthouse first introduced Fisherman’s Friends to Fleetwood in 1865 to cure sailors’ sore throats. For the next 100 years, his product was sold only within the fishing community of Fleetwood.
Doreen, a young girl with bold business ideas, gave hope to the family business.
In 1963, Doreen took over the company, completely transforming its fortune by selling lozenges on a van along the North West.
Doreen planned to change the company by collecting all the letters from customers in Blackburn, Accrington, and elsewhere who wanted to buy Fisherman’s Friends.
Then she drove around all these places, looking for good shops. After showing the store owner the mail from the potential customers, Doreen promised to send them to the store if they agreed to stock.
She persuaded each store owner and even Boots to stock them.
The Lofthouses worked hard, over 100 hours a week, with sales skyrocketing and output doubling on the lozenge machine in the back room of the family shop in Lord Street.
The company relocated to a newly converted tram shed within a year before expanding further in 1972 with a 20,000 square foot unit in Fleetwood.
A year later, Fishermen’s Friends reached another significant deal when the UK-based distributor Impex Management agreed to distribute the sweets throughout Scandinavia.
Following the quick depletion of initial stocks in Norway, orders began to pour in from Iceland, Greenland, Sweden, and other countries.
By the mid-1990s, Fisherman’s Friends was widely regarded as the United Kingdom’s largest exporter of branded foods to Germany, which imported approximately 100 million packages per year.
In 2008, Doreen was honored to receive the OBE, the prestigious Royal Order of the United Kingdom’s prestigious award for her contributions. After noticing her coughing in public, Doreen once gave Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a pack of lozenges.
Doreen, affectionately known as the “Mother of Fleetwood,” used her brilliant business acumen to reinvest millions of dollars in her beloved seaside town.
Doreen contributed significantly to many of her local welfare causes, ranging from a £1.6 million renovation of a local hospital to a £750,000 statue of Eros on the main road into Fleetwood.
The Lofthouse Foundation also sponsored the town’s 150th-anniversary celebrations, funded a new town lifeboat, and renovated several public spaces.
“Mrs Lofthouse was a true pioneer of Fleetwood… She was a woman who deeply cared about the town and I thank her for everything she has done,” said Garry Payne, Wyre Council’s executive director, following her death.