Scotland’s SPAR wholesaler and retailer CJ Lang & Son increased turnover by 9.4% to £212.5 million in the year to 30 April 2021.
Pre-tax profits doubled to £3 million, but CEO Colin McLean was quick to emphasise that this “was not about a one-hit wonder but about a strategy that is delivering”.
There has been a turnaround in the business since the new management team, led by McLean, was brought in three-and-a-half years ago. At that point, profits stood at around £500,000 and there had been five years of sales decline.
Finance director Craig Tedford confirmed that the company’s growth is continuing: “As we are emerging from the pandemic, six months into our new financial year we are seeing 11% like-for-like growth in turnover over the same period two years ago. What that says is that the growth trajectory that we were on pre-pandemic is continuing but what happened during the pandemic was that there was a spike as a result of consumers choosing to shop more locally than they had previously.”
McLean added: “The previous 12 months saw a significant change in the retail landscape as the impact of COVID-19 was felt. Like many other retailers, our primary focus has been on the wellbeing of our staff whilst supporting our customers in the many local Scottish communities in which we operate.
“As a genuinely Scottish business, we have been able to adapt quickly and react flexibly to the changing Scottish retail landscape and continue to provide a first-class service to our consumers, independent retail customers and local communities at a time when they have needed us most.”
In the past 12 months, CJ Lang has invested over £2 million in the roll-out of its food-to-go offer, CJ’s, which will be in the majority of its company-owned stores by the end of 2021. CJ’s has been a key driver of growth in the past year, along with an increase in productivity through smarter ways of working at store level, such as automatic stock ordering, said McLean.
The company has also increased its independent customer base, with around 20 stores joining SPAR Scotland in the past 18 months, taking the total to 244. That compares to 180 stores in April 2018. Furthermore, CJ Lang has made improvements to its product offer and, according to McLean, is the only symbol group in Scotland that has been repeatedly advertising on TV in the last 12-18 months. “We have some great deals and will be back on TV again very shortly. On top of that, we have transformed how we have brought NPD to the market. Historically we were poor at it; now we’re leading-edge,” he said.
As part of CJ Lang’s business transformation programme, it recently announced record levels of future investment in its company-owned estate, which saw 10% like-for-like growth in the last financial year and currently comprises 107 stores. A major programme of refurbishment works will commence in 2022, and this will facilitate an improved customer offer across chilled and fresh produce categories. The company is focused on providing customers with excellent service, together with the best local products and an award-winning SPAR brand range.
“The Scottish retail market environment remains extremely challenging, with significant potential headwinds. Inflationary cost pressures, supply chain impacts, and driver and fuel shortages have been well documented; however, we remain well positioned to navigate these challenges,” said McLean. “I would like to thank all our customers and staff for their continued support.”
Tel: CJ Lang (01382) 512100
Published Date: October 28, 2021