A.F. Blakemore's Bedford distribution centre (exterior)

A.F. Blakemore & Son has announced a strong set of figures for the Christmas trading period.

The wholesaler and distributor reported an 18 per cent sales increase for the four weeks ending 2 January 2022, pointing out that effective planning and additional capacity generated from its new distribution centre in Bedford helped meet strong customer demand.

Group chairman Peter Blakemore said: “Much of the sector had forecast a challenging operating period with predictions of supply chain failures impacting availability and the ongoing Covid pandemic affecting staffing levels. Without doubt, Covid continues to impede colleague availability, however by investing and putting importance on our people capability, it has enabled us to continue to operate as normal despite Covid-related absenteeism, which were similar to peak pandemic levels.

“Christmas stock management required tactical stock builds, centralisation of supply and backhaul for our suppliers; but inbound supply is still sitting six percentage points below outbound. With our highest recorded case volume on New Year's Eve and a forecasted 20 per cent growth in sales by the end of the financial year, we need suppliers to invest in mitigating these issues to improve availability.”

Changes at the top

The Midlands-based business is in a transitional period with changes to its leadership team, as group managing directors Geoff Hallam and Jerry Marwood will be retiring at the end of the financial year 2022 and May 2023 respectively.

Jerry Marwood will take over Group CEO responsibilities following Hallam’s retirement, working alongside the current management team on the daily management of the business, as well as focussing on the acceleration and delivery of the five-year business plan. The company stressed that Marwood will also implement his succession plan to ensure a smooth transition in 2023.

Blakemore added: “Geoff’s contribution to the AFB business has been substantial and I would like to thank him for his dedication and commitment during his time with us and wish him every happiness in his retirement. I am delighted that Jerry will be appointed to the CEO role continuing to manage the planned transition and steering the company’s strategic direction. The coming months will see further senior appointments as we structure our business in line with our long-term strategy.”