Sandpiper reports robust food trade

ROBUST trading in its food stores during the pandemic has been reported by one of the Channel Islands’ biggest retailers – although working from home has hit its non-food portfolio.

Sand piper executive chairman Tony O'Neill. (28875120)
Sand piper executive chairman Tony O'Neill. (28875120)

SandpiperCI operates a string of high street franchises – including Morrisons Daily and Iceland in Guernsey – and set out the impact of Covid-19 in its latest trading update covering the six months up to 1 August 2020.

‘Like all businesses, we have been adapting to living in a world dominated by the ongoing impact of Covid-19 over the last six months,’ said executive chairman Tony O’Neill in the unaudited interim report covering the period.

‘As our interim results indicate, trading has been robustly driven by the performance of our food shops, which continue to perform strongly across all fascia. This was offset to a degree by the partial closure and subsequent reopening of our non-food portfolio, which continues to feel the impact of reduced town centre footfall driven by working from home.’

But he also highlighted how a key indicator of performance was ahead of the same period last year. The business had performed ‘remarkably well’ within a Covid-19 context and remained in a strong financial position.

‘It is worth noting that whilst incurring significant costs associated with social distancing and PPE in our stores, we did not receive any financial support from the States of Jersey or Guernsey, but in turn, we did provide financial assistance to some of our commercial tenants who were most severely impacted by the downturn,’ added Mr O’Neill.

‘I am especially proud of the way that our team has responded to the challenges faced and that we have continued to effectively serve the communities in which we operate by keeping shelves stocked (with strong support from our Blue Chip franchise partners) all whilst protecting the health and safety of our customers and colleagues from the pandemic. All of our colleagues showed remarkable resilience and flexibility in meeting local demands in a very difficult trading environment and once again, I thank them all for their loyalty and support.’

He expressed delight that a dividend of 1.5p per share was paid on 29 September from prior year reserves earmarked for this purpose. In the early stages of Covid-19 the group took the ‘prudent’ decision to withhold its initial dividend payment for this financial year. But continued development of the business and robust financial performance in the first half of 2020 enabled this decision to be revisited.

‘Looking to the future, notwithstanding any untoward impact caused by a potential ‘no-deal’ Brexit, we see no reason why we should not return to our usual financial calendar of dividend payments,’ said Mr O’Neill.

Development opportunities continued to be sought, which included re-entry into the Alderney market with the acquisition of Le Cocq’s Stores and new territory openings with franchise partners.

‘Finally, we are close to announcing a major new franchise for the Channel Islands in the near future,’ concluded the SandpiperCI executive chairman.

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