Bedford exterior

Source: AF Blakemore

The Spar wholesaler also enjoyed a 9% rise in sales for the six months to October

Sales at AF Blakemore have soared 19% to £1.19bn, for the year ending 1 May.

Since then, the Spar wholesaler has enjoyed a 9% boost in sales for the six months to October.

Chairman Peter Blakemore put the “robust performance” down to its core Spar network, travel and foodservice divisions, scaling up home delivery and quick-commerce channels, and a “steady return to growth” for the Philpotts prepared-food chain, which is set to open its first new store after temporarily closing down all stores during the pandemic, in Birmingham at the end of February.

“Opening our new Bedford depot provides future supply chain security to all our trade partners and has at once enabled greater stock holding at a time where many manufacturers were struggling with inbound availability, which we know is critical to our independent partners,” said Blakemore.

He explained the development of AF Blakemore’s long-term supply chain strategy and market factors such as UK labour shortages required the business to incur an “unplanned” £17m in its total logistics operation.

For example, a significant increase in sales meant it had to keep the Hastings depot open for longer than planned. It closed in February this year.

The UK-wide shortage of transport staff also required the business to hire an additional group of transport agents, while also funding operating costs associated with the opening of the new depot in Bedford.

These investments meant the group delivered a pre-tax loss of £3.3m, down from a pre-tax profit of £6m in the previous year.

“Despite the short-term impact on our P&L, the costs were incurred to protect the long-term supply chain security of our customers,” said CEO Jerry Marwood.

“The investment in our Bedford depot and initiatives such as our ‘Street to Wheels’ training programme has resulted in an increased network capacity and increased ability to hold stock, enabling us to maintain outbound service levels when inbound service has been challenged, as well as enhanced freezer solutions to future-proof our frozen capability, and saving an additional 140,000 food miles due to our enhanced backhaul capability.

“However, given the macroeconomic turmoil predicted in the next 18 months, we must continue to be vigilant and work hard to protect our customers’ interests.”

Blakemore added: “The results for the year to May 2022 reflect a challenging time, however we believe there is continued growth opportunity for a values-based business that invests for the long term, within our industry.

“I would like to thank colleagues, customers and supply partners for their hard work and support throughout the year.”