FOOD and drink wholesaler JW Filshill, one of Scotland’s oldest independent food and drink wholesalers, saw turnover soar to £191 million – up 23% from £155 million – in the year ending January 31, 2021.

Glasgow-based Filshill, a fifth-generation business that supplies KeyStore convenience stores across Scotland and the north of England and national accounts including the Scottish Prison Service, recorded gross profit of 8.08% during the year, slightly down from 8.4% the previous year due to the effects of the pandemic.

Operating profit at Filshill, which will relocate to a 120,400 sqft purpose-built distribution centre at Westway Park near Glasgow Airport early next year, increased to £2.3 million – 1.2% of turnover – from 0.67% the previous year in what directors described as a “positive improvement but still highlighting how tight profit margins are in the wholesale sector”. Net assets increased to £15.2 million from £13.6 million the previous year, an increase of 11.8%.

Keith Geddes, chief financial and operating officer, said that the group had delivered a “strong” set of financial results for the year to January 2021, noting: “The UK economy has experienced a period of extreme uncertainty due to the ongoing pandemic and the group has had to adapt to take account of the massive disruption experienced by all sectors.

“We constantly reviewed controls and working processes to ensure that our workforce was operating safely and with the necessary resources and information to minimise any risk to our team. There were high costs associated with safeguarding employees and customers but we took all necessary precautions.

“We were one of the first companies in the UK to make regular lateral flow testing available on site to the entire team.”

Mr Geddes added: “Despite these increased operating costs the change in consumer behaviours resulted in an increase in demand for convenience retail which helped offset these costs and generated funds to invest in the growth and future of the business.”

However, he noted that the pandemic had made it necessary for the business to suspend much of its on-trade and international activity during the year – the business supplies local craft beer and craft spirits to international markets.

Simon Hannah, chief executive officer at Filshill, pointed to the group’s acquisition of tonic wine brand Eldorado towards the end of the year, providing an opportunity for the business to become involved in brand ownership and development. “We also revisited our overall company strategy during the year and created a 10-year strategy, built by all employees, to provide focus and clarity of direction for the business going forward,” he said.

He added: “Our long-term strategy of building strong partnership-based relationships with our customers and suppliers has been critical in us providing essential supplies to communities across the country in challenging times. We were recently ranked number one by suppliers in an independent survey across our key competitors for the ninth consecutive year.”

“The directors are pleased with the company performance and are confident that profits will continue at a satisfactory level going forward.”

Despite the impact of Covid-19, the group continued to support many local community programmes and good causes as part of its ongoing commitment to CSR. The business also engaged heavily with its workforce on health and wellbeing with a particular focus on mental health. “We have put mental health and wellbeing at the heart of everything we do, and we recognise the positive impact this has on our business and our customers,” said Mr Hannah.

“We have over 20 fully-trained mental health first aiders in the business who are having a big impact, not only supporting their colleagues but their friends and family too.

“The Filshill team, as key workers, have been incredible over the past 12 months, showing flexibility, resilience and adapting to the continuously changing environment that Covid presented – I couldn’t be prouder of the Filshill family.”

Filshill also engaged with external advisers to create a strategy around benchmarking its carbon footprint, identifying areas where it can positively influence a reduction in its carbon impact and work towards a net-zero emissions position.

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