booker depot warehouse wholesale

Booker has reported a 1.5% increase in total sales to £4.75bn for the year to 27 March.

Updating on full-year and fourth-quarter performance this morning, the UK’s biggest wholesaler also revealed its chairman Richard Rose would be stepping down in July, and that Mark Aylwin, MD of Booker Direct, was leaving to pursue other opportunities.

Like-for-like total sales excluding Makro rose 2.3% during the year, with like-for-like non-tobacco sales up 2.9% and tobacco sales up 1.1%. Total sales to caterers rose 2% in a year in which Booker said it had seen “significant” price deflation in the catering market – including -15.8% deflation on fruit and vegetables. Sales to retailers rose 2.7%.

Underlying non tobacco volumes increase 4.5% during the year, while customer numbers rose 4% to 549,000. Internet sales jumped 12% to £874m. It also said net cash stood at £147m at the end of the year and profits were “in line with expectations”.

In the fourth quarter to 27 March like-for-like sales, excluding Makro, increased 1.7%. Total sales including Makro rose 1%. Booker said tobacco sales in the 12-week period including Makro rose 1.2%, while non-tobacco sales rose 0.9%. Excluding Makro, they rose 0.6% and 2.3% respectively.

It added that the turnaround of Makro was “progressing well”. Without citing figures, it said customer satisfaction had improved during the fourth quarter and that cash and profits were in line with expectations. Non-tobacco sales in Makro depots fell 7.4% as expected, as a result of Booker’s decision to stop selling some consumer ranges.

“This was a good end to a good year,” said Booker CEO Charles Wilson. “We achieved strong satisfaction scores, and sales and profits were the best we have ever achieved.”

Rose is due to step down at Booker’s agm on 8 July. He has served three terms of three years, first as chairman of Blueheath, which was acquired by Booker in 2007, and then Booker.

“Richard has been a superb chairman,” Wilson said. “Booker has come a long way in the past few years and Richard has done a great job of building and chairing the board. We wish him all the very best in the future.”

He added that the process to find a new chairman was underway and a successor was expected to be announced before its agm.

Aylwin, who was responsible for the Booker Direct, Chef Direct and Ritter Courivaud businesses, leaves after eight years at Booker. He joined with the acquisition of Blueheath in 2007, developed Booker Direct and helped found Chef Direct.

He will remain an employee of the company until 1 January 2016 and until then will “assist with an orderly transition and handover of responsibilities”.

“We are very grateful to Mark for his contribution to Booker,” Wilson said. “Mark and his team have made a real contribution to the group. Mark will be missed, but his team are staying.”

Booker said it would not be replacing Aylwin. Instead, Booker Direct would become part of the group retail structure reporting to Steve Fox. Chef Direct would become part of group catering reporting to Stuart Hyslop. Ritter Courivaud would be chaired by Dominic Morrey, who runs Booker’s Fresh business.

“These changes will help bring the benefits of Booker Direct, Chef Direct and Ritter Courivaud to our national accounts, branch accounts and independent catering and retail customers,” Wilson added. “This should ensure that we continue to provide a great service to all our customers.”