Belfast Telegraph

SHS Group: Belfast firm behind Shloer and WKD hit by 25% fall in profits

Chief executive: Elaine Birchall
Chief executive: Elaine Birchall
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Pre-tax profits at the Northern Ireland grocery products firm behind Shloer and WKD have fallen by 25% from £24m to £18m during 2018.

SHS Group, based in Airport Road West in Belfast and led by chief executive Elaine Birchall, said the performance reflected investment in its brands, manufacturing assets and its people in the aim of long-term growth.

The family firm markets, sells and distributes grocery and healthcare products.

It manufactures and sells drinks, like the non-alcoholic Shloer, as well as firelighters and matches, and in the food category, condiments and sauces.

Its portfolio of alcoholic beverages includes pre-mixed WKD and cider brand Merrydown.

Turnover was up by around 0.6% from £545m to £548m. During the year, turnover from UK sales had fallen by 3.2% from £489.2m to £473.4m.

However, sales to the rest of the world had increased by 33% from £56.5m to £75.4m.

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Employee numbers also rose from 878 to 1,108 following an acquisition - and as a result the company's pay bill went from £34.6m to £42m.

Its highest paid director received £1m in remuneration.

During the year the company acquired 3V Natural Foods, the owner of Meridian nut butters and Rocks organic squashes. In 2017 it had acquired No&More infused water and Standard Brands, the Surrey-based owner of Zip and Sunny Jim firelighters.

A strategic report filed with the accounts said that the business had driven "top line growth by innovation, new business, brand investment and acquisitions and rationalised non-performing categories and channels".

It added: "Group trading profits in 2018 reflect investment in our brands, new markets, research and development, manufacturing assets and our people, to improve resources and skills to deliver long-term sustainable growth.

"Despite a challenging business environment, commodity and foreign exchange pressures and continued Brexit uncertainty, results were enhanced by prudent management of operating costs and optimal portfolio management."

It concluded that given the backdrop of economic and market conditions, "both the results for the period and the prospects for the future are satisfactory".

The company is owned by the Sloan and Salters families. Its board includes members of both families, as well as chief executive Elaine Birchall and also her predecessor Michael Howard.

Belfast Telegraph