Palmer & Harvey has pledged to bring its board of directors “closer to the coalface” after culling nine senior managers from its Hove head office.

The pace of change in recession-hit shoppers’ behaviour meant the wholesaler had to be “fleeter of foot” and more flexible to its customers, said commercial director Martyn Ward.

“That means bringing board directors much closer to the coalface so we take decisions based on first-hand market awareness,” he said. “Palmer and Harvey is always looking a for ways to do business better.”

Last week The Grocer revealed that nine below-board level senior managers, including the logistics, marketing, customer services and multiple sales directors, were to be made redundant. It is understood these functions will be divided up between the board.

Ward added that P&H had started a number of initiatives in response to customer feedback, including the formation of a Mace Leadership Group, centralising its telesales operation, growing capabilities in the South East and offering support for CTNs with its Supershop retail club.

Sales at P&H rose 4.9% to £4.2bn, while pre-tax profits fell 15.5% to £4.9m in the year to 7 April, according to its latest results. tobacco sales grew 5.1% to £3.23bn while non-tobacco sales grew by 4% to £993m.

P&H benefited from the strong growth of the multiples’ convenience channels and its Mace symbol stores, as consumers continued to shop more frequently and closer to home. Non-tobacco sales to its 874 Mace symbol stores were up 8.1%.

However, its forecourt customers suffered from falling footfall and “the smaller independents are struggling,” said chairman Christopher Adams.

There was strong interest from independent retailers in using P&H’s van sales division, which acquired Walkers Snack Services this year.