Booker Group: Sales rise and the hunt is on for a new chairman

Booker Group today reported total sales up 1.5%, compared to last year – taking them to £4.75bn (including  Makro) for the 52 weeks to March 27, 2015.

Like-for-like sales rose 2.3% overall (excluding Makro), while like-for-likes, excluding tobacco, rose 2.9%. The wholesale group also reported results for the final quarter trading period when total sales over the 12 weeks to March 27(including Makro) rose by 1% compared to the same period last year.  Like-for-like sales excluding Makro were 1.7% higher with non-tobacco like-for-likes 2.3% higher.

The Group also reported that its Wholesale division had fared well over the 12 week period with customer numbers and satisfaction scores both up. It added that as expected non-tobacco sales in Makro were down 7.4% over the quarter as a result of the decision to stop selling a number of consumer ranges. However, cash and profits at Makro were in line with expectations, it said.

Group CEO Charles Wilson said of the results: “This was a good end to a good year. We achieved strong customer satisfaction scores and sales and profits were the best we have ever achieved. The integration of Makro into the Group has gone smoothly, which has allowed us to improve choice, prices and service to our catering and retail customers. Despite price deflation, we have grown like-for-like sales and Booker Group remains on track to focus, drive and broaden the business to be the UK’s leading wholesaler.”

Ken Odeluga, a senior market analyst at City Index said Booker’s discount fascia Family Shopper’s latest quarterly figures would continue to make it the envy of bigger UK grocers, while the total results meant the Group could reiterate that full-year profit would be in line with expectations. “There’s good reason to keep forecasts for FY 2015 gross revenues at £4.77bn, 1.8% higher, and for reported pre-tax profit to rise 3% to £136.7m,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Group also revealed that current chairman Richard Rose would be stepping down at the AGM on July 8 this year and the search for a new chairman was underway. Booker additionally announced that Mark Aylwin, responsible for Booker Direct, Chef Direct and Ritter Courivand, is also leaving to pursue other opportunities.

Rather than replacing Aylwin, Booker will transfer responsibility for the three divisions into the wider Group structure. As a result Booker Direct will become part of the Group Retail structure reporting to Steve Fox. Chef Direct will become part of Group Catering reporting to Stuart Hyslop and Ritter Courivaud will be chaired by Dominic Morrey who runs Booker’s Fresh business.

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