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Fowler Welch set for ‘bright future’ says parent Dart

Leeds, UK: Fowler Welch has a “bright, interesting and profitable future ahead”, according to its parent Dart Group, which revealed that the logistics business boosted turnover but saw pre-tax profit fall by £0.9m to £4.5m.

Fowler Welch’s turnover rose 14% to £163.5m

Philip Meeson, executive chairman of Dart, made the comments in the group’s preliminary results report for 2017.

Fowler Welch’s turnover rose 14% to £163.5m. The fall in operating profit was blamed on “competitive market conditions, particularly in the ambient sector” and a £400,000 debt write off relating to the demise of a major poultry supplier.

During the first half of the year, Fowler Welch completed a 50,000 sq ft extension to its Teynham facility. This demand-led capacity increase enabled the expansion of Fowler Welch’s joint venture fruit ripening and packing business, Integrated Service Solutions (ISS), and builds capacity for further revenue opportunities at the site which serves local Kent growers, group chief financial officer, Gary Brown, said.

In June 2016, Fowler Welch began a ten-year partnership with Dairy Crest based at Nuneaton in the Midlands, a new region for the business.

“Following a seamless implementation, which included the transfer of Dairy Crest colleagues and fleet to Fowler Welch, the business contributed positively in the year. This operation provides an important additional revenue stream and adds to the geographical reach of our significant chilled distribution services,” said Brown.

“We expect the operation to progressively expand as it is more fully integrated into the broader Fowler Welch distribution network.”

Revenue at the Spalding operation in Lincolnshire increased by 2%. Brown pointed out that the 156,000 sq ft depot is one of the largest chilled food consolidation hubs in the UK and is the largest chilled site in the Fowler Welch network. Combining a consolidation service for fresh produce and chilled foods, the site picks over 41 million cases per annum and delivers around 50,000 pallets of food each week on behalf of local Lincolnshire growers and producers.

The Hilsea depot, which is located near to Portsmouth International Port, had another “encouraging year” with revenue growth of 10%, said Brown. New volumes were secured from several existing customers.

The Heywood Hub, Fowler Welch’s 500,000 sq ft ambient shared user storage and distribution centre near Bury, Greater Manchester saw a second year of depressed revenues, down 4% year-on-year.

“This revenue reduction reflected the highly competitive nature of the ambient grocery distribution market. Following increased sales efforts, the business was successful in securing several smaller contracts toward the end of the financial year and a material new contract commenced in the first quarter of the current financial year,” Brown said.

“The further development of services along the supply chain is contributing to a strong pipeline of growth opportunities with both existing and new clients. These added-value services, combined with the core competency of consolidating multiple clients to provide the critical mass for efficient distribution, give confidence in the continued profitable growth of Fowler Welch,” he said.