Local authority contract loss does dealer a favour

A Scottish catering supplies and equipment dealer has told how the loss of a large local authority contract has worked out in its favour despite its initial fears that the business would be hit hard.

Portland Janitorial Products — which began as a cleaning supplier back in 1981 but has since diversified into catering equipment, barware and disposables —said the loss forced it to refocus its energy on more profitable jobs instead.

Although it didn’t reveal what the contract entailed, sales director Johann Kenmuir — whose father founded the company and still runs it — said it was the worst moment of his career.

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In an interview with The Herald Scotland’s business pages, published today, he said: “A year or so ago we lost a large local authority contract after it decided to use a supplier who could supply throughout the UK. After the initial shock and worry about the results of this to the business, we realised this was not such a bad thing after all. We received a large volume of work from this contract but the profit margins were low.

“This volume of business meant we did not have time to pursue more lucrative new business. Since losing this contract turnover is down but profitability has increased as we have now pursued and won new contracts from existing and new customers at healthier profit margins.”

Ayr-based Portland makes a turnover of £900,000 and employs seven staff, five of which are family members.

Portland now supplies the full Nisbets catering range and Kenmuir told the paper that one of its priorities this year is to develop its e-commerce website, add more ranges and raise the profile of the company.

“We recently employed the third generation of Kenmuirs, carrying on the family tradition,” he revealed. “It is heartening to realise that we are providing financial security for each other and not having to rely on an employer and possible threat of redundancy.”

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