Countrywide boosts profits for third year in a row

Countrywide, the UK’s leading rural supplier, has boosted its profits for the third year running, despite the difficult economic environment and volatile prices.

Operating profits for the six months to November 2009 improved by £400,000, year-on-year, to £600,000.

The retail enterprise remained the most profitable part of the business, achieving a like-for-like sales increase of 3.2% in the first six months of the trading year.

“In July 2009 a new store was opened in Honiton, Devon, and three other retail business acquisitions were completed in the period,” said chairman Nigel Hall.

Agricultural turnover fell as a result of lower commodity prices. “This however, hides encouraging trends, particularly in the livestock feeds business which delivered a near 10% growth in volumes compared to 2008.

“In arable, fertiliser sales were down, following the national trend, whereas our crop protection sales remained strong.

“The expansion and strengthening of our agricultural team continues, and we have acquired Country Keeper, a small specialist game feed and supplies business.”

The energy side of the business proved rather more disappointing, due to the mild autumn and lower energy prices. Volumes of both gas and fuel dropped by 7% and 8%, respectively.

“While this was disappointing, the prolonged period of cold weather that followed has enabled the business to partially recover this shortfall,” said Mr Hall.

“Although market conditions remain challenging, Countrywide’s successful growth can be attributed to the implementation of a clear, long-term strategy which firmly places the needs of the rural customer at the forefront of everything we do.

“The board expects this improved performance to be maintained during the second half of the year, and that full-year operating profit will be ahead of last year.”