Despite the fact that Northern Ireland-based distributor, Stephens Catering Equipment, has seen its turnover dip in the 12 months to 30 April 2020, it still climbed in this year’s Power Players, with rivals’ revenue being impacted to a greater degree.
While turnover did drop by 9%, from £18.9m to £17.2m, operating profit grew by 11% from £401k to £447k and gross profit margin increased to 28% from 27%. The distributor is headquartered in Ballymena, with branches in Belfast, Broughshane, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Stephens has a big presence in Ireland too, with offices in both Maynooth and Donegal.
MD Paul Caves stated at the time of the annual report: “Since March 2020, in response to the Covid-19 global pandemic the company’s activities have been severely restricted. The company has operated with reduced staff in all branches and has utilised the government retention schemes provided by both the UK and RoI governments. While there has been some recent improvement in trading, the continued shutdown of the hospitality sector continued to impact the company’s level of activity.”
Speaking personally about how the business managed during the pandemic, he said: “You put people’s safety and well-being first, that’s the number one priority. That’s a question of education, strong process and constant reminders of the importance of adhering to the public safety guidelines. Then it’s about understanding your customers’ needs and allocating the resources and focusing on exceeding expectations. We just tried to do right by our staff and customers.”
But Caves can take some positives from this period too, explaining: “I believe the experience has brought us closer. It has also given us the opportunity to examine how we engage with our customers and colleagues, be that virtually or in person. We are presently developing a new 10-year strategy for the company and our pandemic insights definitely feature in that heavily.”
He concluded: “As a business, we focused our efforts on our health, retail and fast food sectors, which all remained very busy. We are privileged to have both a dedicated and highly professional team of people in Stephens. During the worst of the pandemic and at personal risk we attended frontline healthcare and essential service providers to keep them operating. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank our staff, who went above and beyond.”
Stephens Catering Equipment MD, Paul Caves wanted to show his appreciation for the company’s supply chain at this time, commenting: “Our supplying partners were very supportive, especially our leading brands. I believe our relationships are stronger now and better for coming through to the other side of the pandemic. Communication is key. Thank you for your continued support of our business.”