Chairman Peter Blakemore has announced a year of good progress for 2020/21 in his statement on AF Blakemore & Son’s annual financial results.
AF Blakemore’s group sales for the financial year ending on 24 April 2021 declined by 5% from the previous year, falling from £1.053bn to £1.001bn.
The company’s foodservice and wholesale customers across the travel, tourism, leisure and educational sectors were heavily disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, but AF Blakemore’s multi-channel strategy enabled the business to meet changing demands and utilise its workforce to good effect.
Pre-tax profits remained in line with the previous year at £6.1m due to effective cost control and stable margin performance, while shareholders’ funds and net assets grew significantly from £85.7m to £98.6m.
Blakemore commented: “I am pleased to report that the company made good progress during the period to 24 April 2021, when the business had to meet a full year of unprecedented challenges caused by the Covid‑19 pandemic.
“As a result of great customer service and an investment in pricing, we enjoyed good sales across our community-based Spar convenience stores, with consumers shopping more locally, and whilst less frequently, with a higher basket spend.
“Our teams worked hard to maintain robust service levels both in-store and across our distribution network throughout the financial year.”
AF Blakemore has continued to invest during the past 18 months as part of its commitment to growing a sustainable business for the future.
In the summer, the company launched a purpose-built, 165,000sq ft distribution depot in Bedford that will provide the cornerstone of future infrastructure and logistics capability. The multi-temperature, energy-efficient site has provided the business with additional supply-chain capacity to better serve customers in London and South East England.
Across its Spar retail estate, AF Blakemore has continued to implement its store cluster strategy, which aims to deliver store propositions aligned to the needs of consumers, with a focus on food for now and food for later. The business has expanded its home delivery service across company-owned stores and continued the rollout of its own-brand County Bridge fresh meat range to independent retailers.
In recognition of the changing needs of its commercial customers, AF Blakemore has also invested in new online ordering platforms, driven by machine learning and artificial intelligence, for Spar retailers, Wholesale Distribution customers and Foodservice customers.
The company has continued to play a key role in supplying essential services to local communities. The manager of AF Blakemore’s Laceby Lodge Spar store, Linda Carrington, received a British Empire Medal in The Queen’s New Year Honours for exceptional services in her area.
A continued focus on the group’s environmental impact saw AF Blakemore reduce its energy and fuel consumption by 9% in 2020/21 and cut carbon emissions by 13%.
Despite market volatility, sales in the first quarter of 2021/22 were 12% ahead of the prior year as a result of the solid retention of convenience store volumes, the strong recoverability of Covid-impacted channels and growth from new customer accounts.
Blakemore said: “As a result of our strong sales performance and investment in our infrastructure, I believe that the business is well positioned to navigate the current supply chain challenges and to deliver our growth aspirations.
“I would like to thank colleagues, customers and supply partners for their hard work and support throughout the past year in ensuring we have both the expertise and resilience to supply food and services to the communities that we serve in these ever changing times.”