Booker moves into growth for both sales and profits

Booker has continued its recovery with pre-tax profits and sales both up for the first time in several years.

In the first set of results released since its reverse takeover of Blueheath in June, it said total sales for the 24 weeks ending September 14, including 12 weeks of Blueheath, were pound;1,465m, up 2.4% from the previous year.

Pre-tax profit was up 36.8% to pound;21.2m and net debt was reduced from pound;69.6m to pound;46.9m.

Excluding Blueheath, non tobacco sales were up 3.5%, compared to a decline of 3% last year, tobacco was down 3.9% (-1.8% last year), and overall sales were up 0.4% (-2.5% last year).

Sales into the catering market continued to lead the recovery, up 3.2%. A decrease in sales to retailers of 0.8% was primarily due to the smoking ban, according to Booker.

As reported in last month’s issue, the company is rolling out its Extra format, which offers a broader range and better environment for customers, to more depots. It converted 12 during the period of the accounts to bring the total to 20. Sales in the converted depots increased by 3.9%, compared with the overall increase of 0.4%, and the company said it expected to achieve payback on the costs of conversion in less than a year.

The company also relaunched its website in July and internet sales of pound;33.9m in the half-year were more than double the figure for the same period last year.

Chief executive Charles Wilson said: “In the past six months the weather has been unfavourable and smoking has been banned in public places. Despite these challenges, Booker Group plc is continuing to make good progress and the integration with Blueheath is on track.”

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