101-year-old Scottish Spar supplier CJ Lang sees sales spike as shoppers stay local amid pandemic

CJ Lang, the 101-year-old Scottish wholesale business and Spar operator, has flagged a double-digit sales hike as more locked-down home-workers opt to shop local.

Dundee-headquartered firm CJ Lang distributes to hundreds of Scottish Spar stores and works with more than 150 local suppliers.
Dundee-headquartered firm CJ Lang distributes to hundreds of Scottish Spar stores and works with more than 150 local suppliers.

The Dundee-headquartered firm, which distributes to hundreds of Scottish Spar stores and works with more than 150 local suppliers, also reported further progress with its turnaround strategy.

The overhaul has seen the family-owned company boost its food-to-go offering, bringing in more Costa coffee and milkshake machines, for example. It has also been forced to take “difficult decisions”, including the disposal of a handful of loss-making stores.

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Financial results for the 12 months to the end of April reveal a 3.4 per cent increase in turnover to £194.2 million, building on the news last year that sales had risen for the first time in four years.

Bosses noted that headline sales growth was running at 18 per cent in the current financial year as the convenience sector benefits from home-working and regular local footfall.

Underlying pre-tax profits in the year to April 30 doubled to £1.5m, according to the newly filed accounts.

The annual results include the impact of the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic and spring lockdown, which led to an increase in demand in the final six weeks of the financial year. The period also included additional investment made in stores to create safe environments for customers and employees.

Chief executive Colin McLean said: “The onset of Covid-19 at the end of the last financial year, and the subsequent months that followed, have seen the retail landscape completely change.

“Our primary focus has been the continued wellbeing of our staff and customers and we have invested in our stores, distribution centre and offices to ensure that we have created safe environments for all.

“Prior to the onset of Covid-19 our business was already growing, buoyed by the development of our food-to-go offer, a continued focus on improving and implementing consistent store standards, the development of our independent retailer customer base and improvements to our offer in order to meet the changing customer needs within convenience retailing.

“We have continued to implement our strategy for profitable growth developed last year, but we also have had to take further difficult decisions to improve the overall profitability of our business.”

He added: “Whilst the retail landscape is ever changing we continue to follow our long-term strategic path, driving our back-to-basics programme, balanced with initiatives to improve our offer and attract more independent retailers to Spar Scotland.”

The firm, which employs some 2,000 staff across Scotland, was expecting scores of suppliers to participate in a virtual trade show as it extends its commitment to the country’s food and drink sector.

McLean added: “As a truly Scottish wholesaler and convenience retailer, we are focused on providing our customers with our excellent Spar award-winning own label ranges, together with the best of Scottish local ranges and deals, to give them a real incentive to shop in our stores.”

He also called for a rapid resolution of Brexit trade talks to provide certainty over future costs.

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Scottish Spar supplier CJ Lang posts first turnover hike in four years

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