Booker is finally "acting like a market leader" in the wholesale sector and developing collaborative relationships with suppliers that would have not seemed possible even a couple of years ago, said Big Food Group boss Bill Grimsey.
Speaking as BFG unveiled full-year figures ahead of analysts' expectations, Grimsey said collaboratively managed inventory ­ sharing data with suppliers to reduce stockholding and drive availability ­ was "really gathering pace".
Measures to tackle shrinkage had boosted underlying operating profit at Booker, and group savings from online auctions topped £17m during the year, said Grimsey.
However, while progress on the new drop shipment scheme had been "phenomenal", take-up of the online ordering facility from Booker's new Wolverhampton delivery hub had been slower than expected.
Grimsey rejected reports that Icelandic retailer Baugur, which has a 22% stake in BFG, was unhappy with his strategy for Iceland. "There is no rift with Baugur. The issues they have as shareholders ­ that investment in refurbs should produce a return ­ are legitimate. But we are getting those returns. Like-for-like sales at refurbished stores have been over 14%."
Full-year like-for-like sales at Booker were up 1.2% excluding tobacco, but down 1.3% overall. Iceland's were down 4.3% and Woodward's up 10.6%. Group pre-exceptional, pre-tax profit slipped 13.5% to £37.1m on sales down 2% to £5.1bn for the year to March 28, 2003. Analysts expected profits of £30-35m.

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