Cash and carry giant AF Blakemore & Son has posted a ten-figure turnover for the second year running – despite falling sales and profits.
The Willenhall-based firm, one of the UK’s biggest family businesses, blamed the weather and cautious spending as revenue dropped from £1.15 billion to £1.14 billion.
The Spar wholesaler, which is soon to celebrate its centenary, also saw pre-tax profits dip by 23 per cent and margins tighten in the year to April 30, 2013 as it wrestles with the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s entering the convenience market.
It broke the £1 billion turnover barrier in 2012, following the takeover of fellow wholesaler Capper and Co, and continued on the acquisition trail last year.
Chairman Gwendoline Blakemore said that while sales fell in the 2013 financial year there were more encouraging signs in the second half of the calendar year.
She said: “Trading conditions during the year to April 30, 2013, continued to be difficult with consumers being cautious about spending.
“The very poor weather during the summer of 2012 affected sales in the holiday areas where we have a strong presence.
“However, consumer spending in convenience stores has continued to show good growth overall, offset by new stores being opened by the major food retail multiples.
“The group therefore decided to invest heavily in reducing its margins during the financial year to compete strongly and offer its customers lower prices, a strategy that we will continue for the foreseeable future in order to support our retailers’ goals of remaining competitive and growing their retail margins.”
The company, which is 70 per cent owned by Peter Blakemore, the grandson of founder Arthur Blakemore, employs almost 8,000 people.
It paid out no dividends across the year, amid a policy of re-investing at least 95 per cent of pre-tax profits. It introduced a cost reduction programme to remain in the black.
While the convenience retail market is buoyant in the UK, it has become more competitive with the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s investing heavily in local outlets.
However, the document shows an improved outlook in the five months after accounts were filed with Companies House. In the 20 weeks to September 14 revenue increased by 2.9 per cent to £468.6 million.
Ms Blakemore said the firm had increased the level of capital investment offered to retailers, and as a result saw the number of new independent stores double in 12 months.
AF Blakemore & Son was founded in 1917 when Arthur and Harriet Blakemore opened a counter service grocery store in Wolverhampton.
It entered the wholesaling business in 1920 when Mr Blakemore decided to purchase paper bags directly from the paper mill and sell on to other retailers.
In recent years its expansion has been on the back of taking over rivals, including Tates in 1994 and Capper & Co in 2011.
It continued on the acquisition trail last year, after the group completed the takeover of Peter Lowrie and Company in a deal worth more than £2 million in June.