Suttons Consumer Products' operating profits rise steeply

Suttons Consumer Products has seen operating profits shoot up 179% to £567,000 in the year to the end of July 2016 and is handing out £500 staff bonuses.

Heritage Vegetable range "extremely popular" with retailers
Heritage Vegetable range "extremely popular" with retailers

Managing director David Robinson said big investments over the past 12 months in IT systems and processes had improved efficiency and nudged up gross margin to 44.9%.

The business had focused on product development and innovation, not just in seeds but Suttons' range of plants and equipment. Packet seeds now represented just 30% of total sales.

Meanwhile, the company recently acquired the Ascott smallholders supplies business, which would provide new ranges of products for the Dobies Group scheme partners.

Further company acquisitions were being "actively pursued" and Robinson hoped to improve the range of products and services to both direct customers and retail partners.

On plants he said: "There is rising awareness of the importance of diet to human health and increasing knowledge of the beneficial effects of specific nutrients.

"A research scientist has been appointed to work closely with Exeter University, analysing nutrient levels in various conventionally bred crops."

Suttons recently launched four tomatoes with high levels of the antioxidant lycopene as part of a new range of James Wong plants to tap into growing interest in healthy Mediterranean diets.

"Retailer interest in these and other new plant introductions has been very high, with initial sell-ins to independent garden centres up nearly 40% on last year."

Rob Smith who won the BBC Big Allotment challenge joined the company and his new range of plants, including a Heritage Vegetable range, was "extremely popular" with retailers. Sales jumped.

Also new to the company this year was Gavin Shaw who was taken on to spearhead expansion of Suttons' perennial, tree and shrub ranges.

"Gavin’s knowledge and contacts with independent breeders and nurseries has already enabled us to obtain the rights to several brand new, exclusive products, as well as to increase our online range."

Robinson insisted Suttons continued to reject online discounting of packeted seeds as a marketing tool, concentrating instead on providing year-round value for money on all products.

"Current trading in both retail and direct is encouraging and with the continuing support of staff, suppliers and customers the business remains optimistic for future organic and acquisition growth."

On corporate social responsibility he said the company was committed to reducing waste and had avoided the wastage of over one million packs of seed in the past 12 months alone.

Solar panels had generated over 300,000kwh of electricity over the year, saving well over 100 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

Suttons worked with a number of charities and operated online and catalogue trading operations for two major UK charities, netting £250,000 in the past 12 months alone.

And in recognition of the contribution of staff this year every permanent employee had been given a £500 bonus, double last year’s £250, said Robinson.

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