Profits at Countrywide have fallen by two thirds to £1.3m after “a difficult year”.

Group operating profits at the agricultural supplier were £1.3m for the year to 31 May 2012, compared with £4m in the previous year.

Chairman Nigel Hall blamed tough economic conditions and a mild winter which lowered demand and reduced margins.

The company made a £1.2m loss in the first half of their financial year and made 30 staff redundant, but managed to claw back some profits in the second half.

Retail sales increased year on year by 7% to £84m, however margins were significantly down.

“The last twelve months have provided the most difficult market conditions I can ever remember.”
John Hardman, Countrywide chief executive

Despite challenging trading conditions, group sales increased by 18% to £266.7m, compared with £226.3m in 2011, mostly reflecting new business and recent acquisitions, said Countrywide.

The company bought grain trader Heart of England Grain, animal health business H&C Pearce & Sons and agriculture merchant SM Hackett & Son in the last year. It also opened its 50th retail store in Towcester in Northamptonshire.

“The last twelve months have provided the most difficult market conditions I can ever remember,” said John Hardman, Countrywide chief executive.

“The retail business in particular has suffered from consumers lower disposable income, a situation we feel is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future and a backdrop to the substantial changes we have implemented over the last eight months.

“Agriculture has continued to perform well and has contributed substantially to the overall growth of the business. A mild winter impacted our fuels business, however LP Gas and renewables performed well and above expectation. Revenues for agriculture and energy combined grew by 24% to £182.8m during the year reflecting strong agricultural performance in particular.”

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