The UK’s biggest wholesaler Booker today (March 30) reported a small rise in sales in its fourth-quarter, with growth being dragged down by falling tobacco sales.
The company, which also owns the Londis, Budgens and Premier retail brands, reported like-for-likes of 0.7% while total sales grew 0.5% in the 12 weeks to March 24.
Non-tobacco like-for-likes were up 4.7% while total non-tobacco sales were up 4.5%. The group said that this was due to the existing tobacco display ban and the plain packaging rules which are currently being introduced.
Stores under the Budgens and Londis fascias, which Booker acquired from Musgrave almost two years ago, “performed well”, while its Indian arm “continued to make progress”. Internet sales, excluding Budgens and Londis, grew 8% to £233m.
Booker said that its total sales were up 6.7% to £5.3bn in the 52 weeks to March 24 while like-for-like non-tobacco sales were up 2.8%. Tobacco sales continued to struggle – they were down 7.5% year-on-year. However City analysts said that although tobacco was an important component of the wholesaler’s turnover, it did not make a significant contribution to profits.
Booker chief executive Charles Wilson said: “On 27 January we announced the planned merger with Tesco. We are excited about the benefits the enlarged group will bring to consumers, our customers, suppliers, colleagues and shareholders.
“The merger is going through the competition process. Meanwhile it is business as usual as we continue to improve choice, prices and service for our retail, catering and small business customers.”