Wholesaler JW Filshill puts in ‘stable’ performance and prepares for future growth

Food and drink wholesaler JW Filshill, one of Scotland’s oldest independent food and drink wholesalers, said it chalked up a “stable” performance in the year ending January 31, 2020, with turnover remaining at £155m, the same as the previous year.

Glasgow-based Filshill, which is on track to relocate to a 120,400sqft purpose-built distribution centre at Westway Park near Glasgow Airport in early 2022, recorded gross profit of 8.4% during the year. The fifth-generation wholesaler supplies over 190 KeyStore convenience stores across Scotland and the north of England, and has several national accounts including the Scottish Prison Service and CalMac.

It also supplies local craft beer, spirits and other grocery products to international markets, Asia-Pacific in particular.

Keith Geddes, chief financial and operating officer, said: “The group has delivered a stable set of results this year with the continuing industry-wide decline in tobacco sales being offset by sustained growth in other product categories. The move from a cash-and-carry set-up to Click & Collect at our depot in Hillington has been particularly successful and has delivered clear benefits to the company and our customers.

“Living wage, pension regulation and fuel prices continue to drive up our cost base,” he continued. “However, our focus is on offsetting these increases through a constant drive in improving operational efficiency, maximising our use of technology and data, and recruiting new customers to our growing KeyStore symbol group.

“The market remains highly competitive and consolidation continues in the sector but we are well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities we are creating and continue to deliver growth outside of the tobacco category. During the year we continued to export a selection of alcohol and non-alcohol products via JW Filshill International Limited.”

The award-winning wholesaler recorded net current assets of £11.09m, up from £10.3m last year. Simon Hannah, chief executive officer, said he was confident that “profit and turnover growth will continue at a satisfactory level”. He noted: “The independent retail trade remains highly competitive and challenging, and we seek to manage the principal risk of losing customers by aiming to deliver best-in-class customer service.

“In recent months, we have gained a significant number of new customers who have joined our KeyStore family based on word-of-mouth recommendations and our commitment to servicing our customer based during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Any loss of support of key suppliers in terms of supply or credit is a key risk,” Hannah continued. “To offset this the group works hard to maintain strong partnership-based relationships with all suppliers and was recently ranked number one by suppliers in an independent survey across our key competitors.”

He noted that both the Brexit process and Covid-19 “continues to add a level of uncertainty to our business as it does across all industries”, but added: “We believe that we have taken the necessary steps to minimise the associated risks and to take advantage of the corresponding opportunities. With regards Covid, we have carried out the necessary risk assessments and continue to implement controls to minimise the risk exposure.

“We’re in a strong position given current market conditions and while we continue to measure revenue, gross margin and operating profit as key financial indicators we also monitor non-financial KPIs including staff performance, vehicle fuel performance, sales service levels/range achievements, unanswered telesales call, returned orders and early warning date codes as part of our business performance review.”

During the year the group continued to support local community programmes and good causes through its KeyStore Community Funds, as part of its ongoing commitment to CSR.