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

A.F. Blakemore & Son has reported a dip in sales driven by Covid-19 related disruptions.

In its financial results for the year to 24 April 2021, it recorded a 5% drop in sales however it rallied in the first quarter of 2021/22 to achieve a 12% increase in sales. It attributes this quarter’s success to “the solid retention of convenience store volumes, the strong recoverability of Covid-impacted channels and growth from new customer accounts”.

Chairman Peter Blakemore said: “I am pleased to report that the company made good progress during the period to 24 April 2021, when the business had to meet a full year of unprecedented challenges caused by the Covid 19 pandemic.

“As a result of great customer service and an investment in pricing, we enjoyed good sales across our community-based SPAR convenience stores, with consumers shopping more locally, and whilst less frequently, with a higher basket spend.

“Our teams worked hard to maintain robust service levels both in-store and across our distribution network throughout the financial year.”

Across its Spar retail estate, A.F. Blakemore has continued to implement its store cluster strategy, focussing on food for now and food for later.

The business has also expanded its home delivery service across company-owned stores and continued the rollout of its own-brand County Bridge fresh meat range to independent retailers.

It invested in new online ordering platforms, driven by machine learning and artificial intelligence, for Spar retailers, wholesale distribution customers and foodservice customers.

A continued focus on the group’s environmental impact saw A.F. Blakemore reduce its energy and fuel consumption by 9% in 2020/21 and cut carbon emissions by 13% while in the summer, the company launched a purpose-built, 165,000sq ft distribution depot in Bedford that is set to better serve customers in London and South East England.