Advance reports first loss in 20 years

Advance Exterior crop
Advance Group’s finances took a hit in 2020 but are already recovering.

Dunstable-based Advance Group has revealed its first financial results since the Covid pandemic hit.

The firm switched its financial year from finishing in March to the end of September. Therefore the latest figures cover an 18-month period to 30 September 2020.

In that term, the distributor generated nearly £16.6m, which is less than 1% reduction from 2018-19’s financial year sales of £16.7m, with the caveat that the previous period was the standard 12 months. In real terms the latest period’s sales could be down by around a third from the previous year’s.

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Furthermore, Advance posted its first operating loss in two decades, of £938k. This is as compared to 2018-19’s profit of £535k, a slide of 275% or in real terms around 217%.

Advance Group chairman and MD, Steve Coates, said: “The 18 months to 30 September 2020 were very challenging for Advance Group, and as a result we reported our first loss in 20 years. The combination of the collapse in the casual dining sector, followed by the pandemic, provided the worst possible trading environment for the business.”

However, the distributor is already in the process of turning its fortunes around, with Coates reporting: “Better news is on the way now, as our order book is growing strongly and the company has returned to profitability in the current trading period, which started on 1 October 2020.

“Sadly, as a result of the pandemic, we had to let a number of people go last summer, as it became clear that the recovery would be long and drawn out. It’s always heart-breaking to have to make the difficult decision to let good people go, especially with our low staff turnover rate, but with the collapse in trading volumes we were left with no choice at that time.

“Despite these difficulties, the company has bounced back and we have recently extended a number of high profile maintenance contracts in the care and leisure sectors totalling some £12m over the next 5 years.”

He continued: “Our projects division has done a brilliant job securing significant orders in new sectors that will be installed throughout 2021.

“Despite the set-back over the 18 month period to 30 September 2020, the company is currently trading profitably and we anticipate reporting a strong set of results for the year to 30 September 2021.

“I am indebted to my senior leadership group and the whole Advance team who have constantly evolved and worked tirelessly to get us back into profit so quickly, and we look forward to celebrating Advance’s 40th anniversary in July 2021.”

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Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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