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Aulds 'on improved footing' despite losses

INDEPENDENT baker Aulds has remained stuck in the red in its most recent financial year but signalled cost-cutting measures and a partnership with Scotmid have put it on a better footing.

ON THE RISE: Greenock-based Aulds has opened outlets within Scotmid convenience stores and exports many of its products. Picture: Mark Mainz
ON THE RISE: Greenock-based Aulds has opened outlets within Scotmid convenience stores and exports many of its products. Picture: Mark Mainz

Accounts filed at Companies House for Aulds Holdings showed a pre-tax loss of £692,742 in the 12 months to March 31, although that was an improvement from the £867,404 loss in the prior financial year.

Turnover was down almost 8% from £15 million to around £13.8m but there was an uplift in European sales from £73,875 to £106,311.

However, Greenock-based Aulds has opened 25 outlets within Scotmid convenience stores since April last year, with more additions planned for 2014.

Alan Marr, managing director, said: "The picture is very different now to what it was [at the end of the financial year].

"I am pleased to say the company is now moving in a forward direction having had a few years of very difficult times.

"Things are certainly looking a bit brighter and we are looking positively to 2014 but it is still very tough on the high street."

Mr Marr indicated the business has returned to profit and said: "There are different times of the year when you trade well and trade poorly.

"As with all retailers, leading up to Christmas is a good time and January is a poor time. Moving forward, we obviously hope to return to profitability on an ongoing basis."

The partnership with Scotmid - which yesterday separately announced it was closing some of its Semichem and Fragrance House stores - has been a key part of the improvement at Aulds, with discussions over the extent of expansion this year still ongoing.

Mr Marr said: "It allows us to sell to a market we were not in before as convenience stores are not situated on the high street and they also trade for much longer hours than we do."

Mr Marr suggested Aulds will keep a close eye on the performance of its 35 high street locations.

He said: "We have been trading on the high street for 113 years and we need to keep continuing to rationalise where our shops are.

"The company is in a much better place and moving forward. We are looking positively to 2014 but it is still very tough on the high street. Consumer spending is still pretty constrained and personally I don't think there is anything to indicate that will change in the short-term."

Subsidiary Aulds Delicious Desserts, which sells into the restaurant and wholesale food service industries, was said in the accounts to be operating in a market "significantly affected" by the recession but was still growing thanks to investment in sales resource and product development.

Mr Marr said further investment is being made and a team will travel to the Gulf Foods trade exhibition in Dubai next month to try to pick up new business in the Middle East.

He said: "Our products go to something like 19 foreign countries at the moment through different routes, but it is not all classified as export as it may go into British companies that operate restaurants abroad."

The accounts show Aulds Holdings, which is owned by the Marr family, saw its administrative expenses fall from £2.15m to £1.6m.

Average staff numbers fell from 492 to 475 in the year, with employee costs dropping from £6.67m to £6.15m.

Director's emoluments fell from £278,359 to £247.135 with the highest paid seeing their pay package drop from more than £147,000 to £125,020.

Net debt fell from £248,100 and was at £95,342 at the end of the financial year.

Separately, Greggs unveiled a 3.1% rise in like-for-like sales across the Christmas and New Year trading period but confirmed plans to cut more than 400 jobs.

The business said the performance in the five weeks to January 5 meant fourth quarter numbers would be 2.6% ahead - its first quarterly sales growth in two years.

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