Dart Group PLC, the Leisure Travel and Distribution & Logistics group, has announced its preliminary results for the year ended 31 March 2018. Revenues climbed 38.0% to £2,391.8 million as operating profits increased 27.0% to £130.6 million.
The increased profits reflect the continuing strong demand for the Group’s Leisure Travel products, holiday flights with airline Jet2.com and package holidays with tour operator Jet2holidays.
The Group’s Distribution & Logistics business, Fowler Welch, achieved revenue growth of 3.1% to £168.6 million (2017: £163.5 million). However, profit before taxation fell by 2.2%, or £0.1 million, to £4.4 million (2017: £4.5 million), as additional operational support was provided to a key customer over the Christmas period, while varying retailer demand and shorter production runs, led to cost pressures at a fruit ripening and packing joint venture, Integrated Service Solutions (ISS).
During the year, Fowler Welch benefited from the first full year of its Dairy Crest operation at Nuneaton, which commenced in June 2016. This operation adds to the geographical reach of already significant chilled distribution services and contributed positively in the year.
A 14,493 m2 depot at Spalding in the major growing region of Lincolnshire, is one of the largest chilled food consolidation hubs in the UK and is the largest chilled site in the Fowler Welch network. Revenue from this operation reduced by 3.5% in the year, primarily a result of the planned movement of volume to other company sites to create space to upgrade the warehouse facility. The subsequent £2.0 million investment in new white walling, lighting and racking, to what is already a very successful operation, has created a more efficient and modern environment from which to attract new customers.
Revenue from Kent operations at Teynham and Paddock Wood distribution centres increased by close to 7.0%, primarily due to the commencement of a new contract for the distribution of salads. These distribution facilities sit in the heart of the county’s fruit growing areas and provide packing and distribution services for this important local industry and for businesses importing fruit and produce from across the English Channel.
Integrated Service Solutions (ISS), Fowler Welch’s joint venture operation at Teynham, which ripens, grades and packs a variety of stone fruit, berries and exotic fruits, had a challenging year as volume fluctuation, new line implementation, shorter production runs and retailer promotional peaks stretched the operational team. Recovery took time to implement and pleasingly, with improved controls now in place, the final quarter’s performance was encouraging and this has continued into the new financial year.
The Hilsea depot, which is located near to Portsmouth International Port, warehouses, consolidates and distributes supplies of salads, herbs and vegetables to UK retailers. In what was another year of encouraging performance, the business increased operating profit from slightly reduced revenues, as it delivered operating efficiency improvements.
The regional distribution operations at Washington in Tyne and Wear and Newton Abbot, near Exeter in Devon, provide direct store delivery services on behalf of leading retailers to over 100 stores every day. Both improved their operating profit performance year-on-year, as they reacted swiftly to handle additional volume following the failure of a major UK wholesaler.
The operation at Nuneaton, near Coventry, significantly improved its operating profit performance, due to a full year of trading (the operation having commenced in June 2016), the planned transfer of incremental volume from Spalding to allow upgrades to that depot, plus new customer wins as the operation progressively expands.
The Heywood ‘Hub’ is Fowler Welch’s 46,450 m2 ambient (non-temperature controlled) shared user and distribution centre near Bury, Greater Manchester. Considerable operational progress was made during the year as several new suppliers for its major retail client were successfully implemented. In addition, a new material commercial agreement with a mixed fruit soft drink manufacturer was implemented. With strong customer relationships and ongoing investment in its infrastructure, the year ahead for Heywood is set to be positive.
Looking ahead, Fowler Welch continues to focus on growing its revenue pipeline and developing existing and new business opportunities. With a well-positioned supply chain network, a strong and experienced management team, a skilled workforce that prides itself on high standards of customer service, price competitiveness and an ability to provide flexible and innovative solutions, the Group is encouraged by the opportunities available for Fowler Welch.