WHOLESALE and cash & carry giant Booker saw profit before tax rise 16% on turnover that was up 1.9% in the first half of its trading year. Chief executive Charles Wilson said: “We’ve had a good half.
“Despite the challenges in the UK grocery market we continue to provide our retail, catering and small business customers with improved choice, prices and service via the internet, delivery and cash and carry.”
Total sales for the 24 weeks to 12 September were £2.3bn, a 1.9% increase on the equivalent period the year before.
Booker like-for-like sales (excluding Makro) were up 2.4%. And he said it was particularly pleasing that non-tobacco sales were up 3.4% in a period when food and grocery sales in other parts of the market had been shown to be struggling.
Tobacco sales were up only 0.6%, however.
The company has announced price cuts on a number of cigarette brands recently and Wilson said it was committed to helping its retail customers in independent and convenience stores throughout the UK in the run-up to the tobacco display ban in April.
The Booker chief was keen to highlight the continuing integration of Makro outlets into the Booker network which he described as being “on track”.
That would mean more of the new format depots, that combine Booker and Makro outlets, will be developed soon.
And the Makro sites will also play a major role in the company’s plan to increase delivery capacity by 80% over the next two years.
That in turn will help facilitate the development of more of the company’s Family Shopper local discount stores.
Currently there are 15 Family Shopper units, several of which are in Scotland. But Booker expects that number to rise considerably, it’s targeting more than 300 in three to four years.
Its established symbol store operation Premier is now the biggest in Britain by number of outlets with 3,089 units operating under the fascia at the time of the half-year results.
Sales to Premier customers had increased by 14% and sales of fresh produce increased 26%.
Booker sales director – retail, Steve Fox, said: “Our retail business has made good progress during the first half of the year with our continued focus on choice, price and service. Premier has delivered a strong performance with 14% sales growth and Family Shopper in also doing a good job for customers.”