Sprint ponders acquisition after a year of consolidation

Annabels_Sprint 50 of 117 ground floor kitchen crop
The ground floor kitchen Sprint outfitted at Annabel’s. Photo courtesy of James Delin.

Worcestershire-based Sprint Group has experienced a year of consolidation, according to the distributor’s latest published accounts from Companies House.

In the 12 months to 30 April 2018, turnover dipped a little, from 2017’s £16.2m to £15.9m, a 2% slip. Operating profit also reduced from £1.3m to £0.9m, a fall of 24%.

However, MD Tom Bartley-Smith reported to Catering Insight that there was good news elsewhere in the figures: “This was another strong trading year for the Sprint Group. We have won new business, in a tough market, and were particularly pleased with our work at Annabel’s, an iconic site in London.

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“It is no secret that the sector has faced strong (and increasing) headwinds over the past 18 months, and this has been borne out by results posted elsewhere.

“Taken in this context, I’m delighted we have managed to hold our gross margin, and whilst our net position has dipped a little, this can be largely attributed to our investment for future growth – especially in our service team. The significant expenditure represented by our new, bespoke software package will pay dividends (and enhance profitability across the business) for many years to come.”

In the annual report itself, he stated: “After a year of consolidation, the company is well-placed to grow in the forthcoming year. Our aim is to maintain our leading position in the casual dining sector and to extend our client base in the hospitality and leisure sectors.

“The question is whether we can achieve our desired growth organically or if we ought now to focus on acquisition. The challenge, whichever path we go down, will be to add to our client portfolio whilst managing overhead, so that additional sales are generating an acceptable level of profit. Ours is not – and never will be – a company that prizes turnover ahead of profit.”

Bartley-Smith further detailed: “The board foresaw the harshening economic climate last year and resolved to diversify the business. Consequently we have recruited additional sales staff with a remit to explore new segments and geographical areas.

“The decision has been timely. Whilst we have been spared the acute financial pain delivered on some of our competitors, we have nonetheless seen two major customers significantly reduce their year on year spend.

“Had new customers not been secured, our turnover would have decreased compared to the previous year’s results. As it is, we have posted broadly comparable figures. The board believes this year’s results represent underlying new business growth of circa £2m.”

Noting that both high street chains and fellow kitchen design houses have endured a turbulent year, he concluded: “There have been a number of high-profile closures, and whilst the greatest impact is felt by those directly employed, there is always a ripple effect in the supply chain. Our expectation is that there will be further casualties in the coming year.”

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Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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