Press releases from Countrywide:
New CFO for Countrywide Farmers
Countrywide Farmers, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of products and advice to the rural community has appointed retail finance professional Julie Wirth as Chief Financial Officer with immediate effect. Julie replaces interim CFO Steve Payne who has been successfully covering the role for the last twelve months.
"We are delighted to welcome Julie to the board,” says Chief Executive John Hardman. "It is an exciting time for Countrywide Farmers as we implement our strategy to be the leading multichannel rural retailer in the UK. Julie has a wealth of retail finance experience bringing knowledge from senior finance roles at Home Retail Group, Musgrave Retail Partners GB and Conviviality all of which will be invaluable as we roll out our strategic growth plans."
Countrywide Farmers recently announced its updated retail strategy. The implementation of Microsoft Dynamics AX will provide the platform to become the UK’s leading multichannel rural supply business. This new trading platform will allow customers to shop seamlessly across all formats; Country stores, specialist sales teams, on line and catalogues making Countrywide the first choice for customers working and living in the rural community.
The company's loyalty card programme already the largest of its kind will also benefit from some significant improvements, which will accelerate the growth in membership and provide a unique opportunity to tailor product and service offers to individual customer needs.
“Julie has a very clear vision for her teams," concludes Mr Hardman. "To deliver great support to their commercial colleagues as Countrywide delivers its new strategic plan."
RAU students win Countrywide NIAB Agronomy Cup
Four final year BSc (Hons) Agriculture students from the Royal Agricultural University have successfully tested their crop management skills to win the 2014 Countrywide NIAB Agronomy Cup competition.
Challenging 16 other teams, including an agronomist team and crop science students from across the UK, they triumphed in the annual competition sponsored by Countrywide Farmers, which is based on the gross margin outcome of each team’s agronomy, farm management and agricultural decision-making skills.
RAU’s winning team comprising Poppy de Pass, Elice Willett, Matt Clarke and Elwyn Thomas achieved the highest gross margin in the competition with a 9.78 t/ha yield and an input cost of £87.10/ha. Together with the trophy, they win a day with a Countrywide agronomist, free entry to a NIAB TAG technical conference and a £100 Countrywide voucher for each team member.
2014’s competition was the largest yet of what is a unique event. “It is really gratifying to see the competition attract so many entrants and grow in stature within the arable community,” says Simon Smith, Sales Director at Countrywide Farmers. “It is a unique event in that agronomic decisions are tested on fully-replicated field plots at NIAB trials sites local to each team. This emphasises the importance of basing recommendations on field observations and local conditions, which will influence agronomic decisions. This year there were double the number of plots and an extra four sites across the country. Our congratulations go to the talented RAU team.”
Competition sites in 2014 included plots at NIAB’s regional centres at Morley, Harper Adams, Cambridge, Berwick, Headley Hall, Caythorpe, Newton Abbot and at Cirencester, where the Royal Agricultural University’s plots were based.
“All teams made agronomic input decisions on the winter wheat variety Cordiale at a NIAB field trials site local to their college or university, with NIAB TAG trials officers applying the recommendation to the plots,” explains the competition’s co-ordinator Ian Midgley.
Replicated plots means a proper evaluation of the entrants’ decisions with the winning entry judged on the basis of improvement in margin (£/ha) compared to a standard agronomy treatment, costing £96.85/ha. But the real focus is on engagement between students and NIAB TAG’s staff.
“The teams are encouraged to use the plots as a learning opportunity through the season, visiting the plots to make their own observations and assessments of crop development and diseases - all the time finding out more about field experimental practice and crop protection practices from trial officers and agronomists,” said Mr Midgley. “It is an invaluable learning experience.”
Coming second, and also based at Cirencester, the Countrywide Agronomists achieved a higher yield with 9.97 t/ha, but spent more on inputs at £131.63/ha. Although Cordiale was used for all the competition plots, none achieved milling standard despite obvious planning by some of the teams.
Taking into account the fact that last year’s wheat on the same field also failed to reach milling standard, the RAU team decided against putting extra nitrogen on and possibly wasting money.
Team captain Poppy explained that their fungicide strategy was based on the team’s field observations. They chose Adexar (ai epoxiconazole and fluxapyroxad) with Bravo (ai chlorothalonil) for T2 as septoria was present in the lowest leaves across the plots and is usually a problem in the area. Their mind was made-up following a medium warning on CropMonitor for the following week. The long-term weather forecast suggested unsettled weather so they followed up with Proline (ai prothioconazole) for T3 to protect the yield and quality. If there had been rust the team would have added a strobilurin.
The highest yielding plots were at the NIAB Berwick site. The NIAB standard plots yielded 12.26 t/ha with Newcastle University’s Team C achieving the highest competition plot yield, but also the highest input costs at £199.81/ha. Askham Bryan College Team A spent the least on their plots at only £86.75, with a 93.56% margin against the site standard.
Where are the winning team members now?
- Poppy de Pass (captain) is working at NIAB Sutton Scotney as a trials officer
- Elice Willett is in New Zealand, on a six-month contract for Monsanto growing vegetables for seed
- Matt Clarke is in the late stages of applying to go back to IRRI to work on a C4 rice project
- Elwyn Thomas is working for a contract farming business
Follow the Countrywide NIAB Agronomy Cup competition on twitter using #niabcup or online through www.niab.com
Winning Countrywide NIAB Agronomy Cup crop recommendation
|Treatment ||NIAB standard ||1st Place Royal Ag Uni Team B ||2nd Place Countrywide Agronomists ||3rd Place Harper Adams Uni Team A ||4th place Moulton College Team A |
|AN ||As farm crop ||As farm crop ||As farm crop ||As farm crop ||As farm crop |
|T0 ||Cherokee @ 1.0 l/ha ||Cherokee @ 1.0 l/ha ||Cherokee @ 1.33 l/ha ||Cherokee @ 1.0 l/ha Talius @ 0.125 l/ha ||Cherokee @ 1.0 l/ha |
|T1 ||Tracker @ 1.0 l/ha Bravo 500 @ 1.0 l/ha ||Tracker @ 0.5 l/ha Bravo 500 @ 1.0 l/ha ||Proline 275 @ 0.55 l/ha Adexar @ 1.6 l/ha ||Tracker @ 1.0 l/ha Proline @ 0.5 l/ha ||Tracker @ 1.5 l/ha Bravo 500 @ 1.0 l/ha |
|T2 ||Adexar @ 1.5 l/ha ||Adexar @ 1.25 l/ha Bravo @ 1.0 l/ha ||Proline 275 @ 0.55 l/ha Amistar Opti @ 1.25 l/ha ||Adexar @ 1.25 l/ha Comet @ 0.3 l/ha ||Tracker @ 1.5 l/ha |
|T3 ||Folicur @ 0.75 l/ha ||Proline @ 0.4 l/ha ||Proline @ 0.55 l/ha ||Proline @ 0.5 l/ha Comet @ 0.33 l/ha ||Proline @ 0.5 l/ha |
|T0 PGR ||CCC @ 1.25 l/ha || ||CCC @ 1.0 l/ha ||CCC @ 1.0 l/ha ||Moddus @ 0.2 l/ha |
|T1 PGR ||CCC @ 1.0 l/ha ||CCC @ 1.5 l/ha ||CCC @ 1.0 l/ha Moddus @ 0.1 l/ha ||CCC @ 1.25 l/ha ||CCC @ 0.7 l/ha |
|Late N ||None ||None ||None ||None ||None |
|Cost (£/ha) ||96.84 ||87.10 ||131.63 ||140.85 ||110.62 |
|Final results 2014 |
|1 ||Royal Agricultural University Team B |
|2 ||Countrywide Agronomists |
|3 ||Harper Adams University Team A |
|4 ||Moulton College Team A |
|5 ||Easton & Otley College Team A |
|6 ||Lincoln University |
|7 ||Royal Agricultural University Team A |
|8 ||Duchy College Team A |
|Also took part - Newcastle University Teams A, B & C, Harper Adams University Team B, Askham Bryan College Teams A & B, Duchy College Team B, Moulton College Team B & Easton & Otley College Team B |
|Trials sites/NIAB centre |
|Caythorpe (Lincolnshire) - Lincoln University |
|Berwick (Northumberland) - Newcastle University A, B & C |
|Headley Hall (Yorkshire) - Askham Bryan College A & B |
|Harper Adams (Shropshire) - Harper Adams University A & B |
|Morley (Norfolk) - Easton & Otley College A & B |
|Cambridge (Cambridgeshire) - Moulton College A & B |
|Cirencester (Gloucestershire) - Royal Agricultural University A & B, Countrywide Agronomists |
|Newton Abbot (Cornwall) - Duchy College A & B |
Sale of Livestock Feed and Forage, Arable Products & Crop Marketing businesses for £18.4m
Disposals focus Countrywide on its Retail, LPG energy and Turf and Amenity businesses.
Countrywide Farmers plc (“Countrywide”), one of the UK’s leading suppliers of products, services and advice to the rural community, announces the disposal of its Livestock Feed and Forage, Arable Products and Crop Marketing businesses for a maximum total combined consideration of £18.4m cash, allowing Countrywide to focus on its Retail, LPG energy and Turf and Amenity businesses.
The Livestock Feed and Forage business, comprising compound and alternative feeds, fertilizer and forage seeds is being sold to ForFarmers. The Arable business, which sells crop protection and cereal seed products is being sold to Hutchinsons and terms have been agreed for the sale of the Crop Marketing business to Openfield.
The Countrywide teams within these businesses will transfer to the respective purchasers, who are all market leading in their sector. The Countrywide Board believes the acquiring businesses will provide long term stability and wider career opportunities for the Countrywide teams as well as supporting them with the best products and service for their customers. Overall the sale of the Livestock Feed and Forage, Arable Products and Crop Marketing businesses will affect around 80 employees.
The disposals will allow the Company to focus on its higher margin Countrystore retail network of 53 stores across England and Wales, and its Energy business, which supplies bulk LPG and bottled gas to the rural community. The Directors believe that Countrywide holds a competitive advantage in both these areas and that the two businesses have the potential to deliver long-term growth in shareholder value. The Directors also believe that the disposals are in the best interest of shareholders and the additional cash funds will be applied to drive growth in the remaining focussed business.
As announced in our Annual Report, published in August 2014 a strategic review of our retail business, led by Berkeley Partnership, has demonstrated a clear path for Countrywide to become the leading multichannel Countrystore business in the UK. The net funds received from these disposals will provide the financial resources to deliver this strategy, including the implementation of Project Fusion which will provide the operating platform to support this ambition.
We remain committed to UK farming, supporting our customers with over 7,000 agriculture products available in store, catalogue and on line, supported by a dedicated field sales team.
Commenting on the new focus of the business, John Hardman, Chief Executive, said:
“Countrywide is well positioned to execute our retail strategy and to grow the business into a leading multichannel supplier to the UK’s rural community. Focusing the business on areas where we have a leading position and where we can generate strong returns is a key part of our strategy and will allow us to deliver enhanced shareholder value over the medium and longer term. The business is now well financed to ensure that we can successfully deliver on this strategy and we look forward to updating shareholders on our progress.”
“I would also like to thank all the staff who have worked within the businesses that we are selling. We are very grateful for their contribution and I sincerely hope that they will thrive following this new step for those businesses.”
|Walbrook PR Ltd ||Tel: 020 7933 8780 or firstname.lastname@example.org |
|Paul McManus (Media Relations) ||Mob: 07980 541 893 |
|Paul Cornelius (Investor Relations) ||Mob: 07827 879 460 |
SHAREHOLDER CONFERENCE CALL – 11.30am, Wednesday 17 December 2014
There will be an opportunity for Countrywide shareholders to submit questions to the Board which will be answered during a conference call hosted by Nigel Hall, Chairman and John Hardman, Chief Executive.
The conference call will take place at 11.30am on Wednesday 17 December 2014 and shareholders can submit their questions via email to email@example.com stating their name or the name in which the shares are held. Questions should be submitted before 4pm on Tuesday 16 December 2014.
The dial‐in details of the call are provided below:
Countrywide Farmers Investor Call
|Date: ||Wednesday 17 December 2014 |
|Time: ||11.30am |
|Please dial: ||0800 368 0649 (or +44 20 3059 8125 if calling from outside of the UK) |
|Participant password: ||Countrywide Farmers (please quote this to the Operator) |
ForFarmers (Lochem, the Netherlands) is an international operating company active in the field of conventional and organic feed solutions for the animal husbandry sector. ForFarmers is the European market leader, with annual volumes of around 8.5 million tonnes of animal feeds, around 75% of which is in compound feeds. In addition to animal feeds for the cattle, pig‐farming, poultry and equine sectors, ForFarmers supplies trade goods for the arable and grassland farming sectors. ForFarmers also offers its clients additional know‐how and advice in the fields of nutrition, farming and business development. In 2013, ForFarmers recorded net turnover of € 2.6 billion. The company has a workforce of more than 2,200 employees and production facilities in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Countrywide outsourced the manufacture of its compound feeds to BOCM, now ForFarmers, in 2005. The transaction with ForFarmers is subject to clearance by the UK Competition Authority. The deal includes a long term supply contract for the manufacture of bagged feeds for sale through Countrywide’s retail business. In the financial year to 31 May 2014 sales of Livestock Feed and Forage accounted for £125m of group turnover.
Hutchinsons is a leading Agronomy Advisory and Crop Input business operating throughout the UK. Established in 1938 Hutchinsons continues as a family business with a strong commitment to customer service and innovation. In the financial year to 31st May 2014 Countrywide agronomy and combinable seed sales accounted for £6.5m of group turnover.
Openfield is the UK’s leading farmer‐owned grain marketing business handling around 4.5 million tonnes of grain every year and was formed in 2008 following the merger of Centaur and Grain farmers. Their clear strategy is to create unique supply chains and return value to their farmer members. Openfield is owned by 3000 UK farmers who commit grain to the business, and markets over one million tonnes of grain for Openfield Network central storage member companies every year. In the financial year to 31st May 2014 Countrywide crop marketing business accounted for £40m of group turnover.
The Countrywide retail business is one of the UKs leading Countrystore businesses. The 53 stores and online shopping had a combined turnover of £90m in 2014. Key to the future success of Retail is ‘knowing the customer’ and our Countrywide loyalty card is the largest rural club in the UK with membership exceeding 145,000. The card allows us to personalise marketing and promotional offers to each customer segment which has increased the number of transactions per customer per year. As reported in the last annual accounts Project Fusion represents a significant investment in technology to help us fully develop our multichannel strategy to enhance and exploit our existing store network, infield sales team and on line shopping. Our Central distribution centre is also being developed to support these multichannel growth plans.
The Countrywide LPG business services over 10,000 customers in the Rural community with bulk gas and cylinders. The turnover last year of £20m was depressed by a mild winter; despite this we continue to grow customer numbers year on year, with an increasing number being sourced from our Store customer network. Cylinder sales continue to grow via stores as they are integrated into the supply chain. The customer base now benefits from a unique loyalty scheme which is linked to our Countrystores. We continue to invest in its storage and distribution infrastructure to provide the platform for further growth. The business will also benefit from Project Fusion as we seek to improve order and payment processes on line.
Turf and Amenity has grown sales to £3.5m, advising Golf course and Amenity managers throughout the trading area. The specialist sales team are backed by a comprehensive range of market leading products many of which are available for collection from a Countrywide store or online providing customers with more ways to buy than most competitors.
Leading rural business wins multiple industry awards
Countrywide Farmers, leading supplier of products, advice and services to the rural community, has been recognised by the Over The Counter Awards for their excellence in Training, Customer Service and staff knowledge.
The Awards, held annually at the famous Café Royale, London, saw Worcestershire based Countrywide win four awards, and be highly commended in a further two categories.
Michelle O’Connor, HR Director at Countrywide said: “We are delighted to have won so many awards, notably the Training Initiative of the Year, Multiple store of the Year and Agri-Store Manager of the Year. Our commitment to delivering both excellent customer service and providing our employees with the knowledge and skills to grow their careers is core to our success and demonstrating value to our customers.”
Our training programme has been highly successful, and that has enabled us to win both SQP of the Year and Equine SQP of the Year. Without our employees’ dedication to customer service and their ability to pass on their knowledge to our customers, we would not have been able to achieve so much.”
The judges from Over the Counter said that Countrywide had shown a clear strategy for training, with defined goals and outcomes. This includes a bespoke training and reward programme for those members embarking on the SQP and Specialist courses. SQP status is governed by AMTRA, the Animal Medicines Training Regulatory Authority, and Stephen Dawson (Secretary General of AMTRA) sat on the judging panel for the awards.
Countrywide has over 200 SQPs across all stores, who are able to provide expert advice to pet, farming and equine customers on animal health as well as highly trained and dedicated equestrian, pet and agricultural specialists who cover a variety of issues. To find your local store, use the store finder on www.countrywidefarmers.co.uk today.
By Colin Shepherd, Northern Commodities Manager, Countrywide Farmers
Over the last 3 months we have seen spot wheat prices drop to just under £100 in places, and then rally to around £120 now for spot movement for specific homes. Hipro Soya has been on offer as low as mid £270’s for May to October 2015, but spot prices are still trading around £335-340. Very good opportunities have been available at times for the likes of Wheat Distillers, Rapemeal, Maize Meal, Wheatfeed and moist feeds. This is all about being open and flexible, taking advantage of the deals when they are on offer.
What to look for now with Proteins?
- It feels that if the right deal comes along, there is plenty of business still to be done for this up and coming winter.
- In the last article, we highlighted the size of the North American Soyabean crop, this feels like it will be bigger again. In the last 3 months we have seen the projected crop size go from 103.42mmt to 106.87mmt at the last USDA report – If anything reports suggest it will be a little higher than this (remember the 2013 crop was 89.51mmt which was viewed as good).
- The spot Soya market, as already highlighted, is relatively expensive and tight in supply, so cover up to the New Year if not already and watch for opportunities in December to book forward business (May 15 onwards). We believe that the Soya price for May/Oct 15 and beyond will fall back towards the £270’s (depending on location and load size), and with a bit of lady luck better than that. This year’s huge crops are too big not to present us with really good buying opportunities towards December.
- If you have not covered spot Soya requirements, then at least look at other protein options. Rapemeal (Protected), Syrups and Moist Feeds are all offering potential to take some protein at very good value, which when balanced with your forages should give an opportunity to save costs. However, one product that must be considered, being high in energy and protein is the distillers grains coming from the UK ethanol plants – they have moved to a level that must be at least investigated, giving the potential to reduce costs now and throughout the winter.
Given another very good year for world production of cereals, Maize and Wheat in particular, forward cover needs to be thought through now for any energy related products. The market continues to move in cycles, we are seeing that now with milk prices as you are all too well aware. It will happen again with all feed prices. The trick is covering at a time when the market feels it has run its course at the low end, and putting sensible cover down.
- The current situation provides very good potential to look for opportunities to put cover in place through to April 2016. However, with this latest rally of around £15/mt on wheat, leave it for a month or two until things settle back.
- When buying opportunities arise, chip away adding more cover slowly, up to 50% through to October 15 or even April 16. When you have done a trade, be happy that you have contracted some of your forward requirements and concentrate on other aspects of running your business.
- Cereals, wheat in particular, are around 30% down in price from a year ago, this lower price range will not last forever, underlying world demand is still good for commodities, we have just gone through two years of great supply – it will turn, so covering in the next month or two looks sensible.
In summary, in a difficult period for milk production, it is hard to pull away from the hard reality of supply and demand of all commodities. We have had unprecedented supply of feed commodities, building up over the last two years, leading to a situation of much higher stocks of both energies and proteins. However, do not be lulled into a period of inactivity, these lower prices will pull in demand from other sectors such as ethanol production. Therefore, look at your current cover percentages, and if you are comfortable for this winter then fine. But be aware of spot opportunities for products you may not historically use, if you need to buy over the next few months – good buys are out there.
Finally, keep an eye on the potential of covering product from May onwards next year. As outlined on both cereals and proteins it feels like we are close to the lower end of the cycle for both feed stocks. We would be surprised if the next two months will not offer some great buying potential for the 18 - 20 months beyond January 2015.
Ewe nutrition: 'precision pays' says nutritionist
Correct feeding and management of ewes is vital to ensure a successful lambing outcome. This is the view of Mark Hall, Commercial Nutritionist for Countrywide Farmers, who believes attention to detail and precision at every stage, from flushing prior to tupping, through to late pregnancy will be rewarded.
“Silage qualities in 2014 are generally very poor, but as always there is a large variation between farms. Supplementing silages should always be carefully considered, every year is different and feeding regimes should be adjusted accordingly,” says Mr Hall.
“The value of flushing or ‘steaming up’ in ewes should never be under estimated,” says Mr Hall. “Firstly, it gets ewes in the correct body condition score (BCS), of between 2.5 to 3.0, which helps to reduce any nutritional stressors on the system and prepares the body for mating. Secondly, it stimulates the release of insulin. Insulin is a very important hormone in the mating cycle in that it signals to the reproductive system that the body is in a sufficient nutritional state to ovulate.”
Insulin production is stimulated by the feeding of high starch compounds or concentrates and high energy lick buckets. “This is very important for the first 2-3 weeks of tupping as it is vital to get ewes cycling as quickly as possible ready for the rams,” continues Mr Hall. “Then 2-3 weeks into the tupping period feed concetrates can be reduced to switch off insulin production.”
Early and mid pregnancy – maintaining BCS
The main goal throughout early and mid pregnancy is the maintenance of BCS. “Now isn’t the time for ewes to be losing or gaining weight,” explains Mr Hall, “and ideally the BCS of 2.5-3.0 that has been achieved pre-tupping can be maintained throughout pregnancy. Care must be taken so that animals do not become over conditioned, which can lead to significantly reduced dry matter intakes at lactation. It is lamb development that occurs during this period rather than actual lamb growth so both energy and protein requirements for the ewe are relatively low at this time, not rising much above maintenance levels.”
Late pregnancy – preparing for lambing
In contrast, 75% of lamb growth occurs during the final 6-8 weeks of pregnancy greatly increasing nutritional demands on the ewe. Again, precision pays and scanning is a vital decision making aid when it comes to the partitioning of groups.
“Wherever possible split singles, twins and triplets into groups, to allow target feeding,” says Mr Hall, “providing less for singles, and more for triplets, to ensure that animals don’t get too fat or too thin and save on compound costs. Thin singles should be put in with twin lambers and thin twins should be put in with the triplets to allow a return to the correct BCS. Nutrition during this late pregnancy period is vitally important as it also governs colostrum and milk quality when the ewe does eventually lamb. Poor nutrition at this stage results in not enough milk being available for lambs and very poor early growth rates.”
The closer to lambing, the more demands on the ewe increase and, in the last two weeks, a final increase in the level of nutrition can be required.
Get the ration right
Mr Hall recommends that farms should always get silage or hay analysed and match the compound and feed rate to the forage, that way you are providing a balanced ration that meets the flocks nutritional needs in the most precise and cost-effective way.
“When considering which concentrate or how much to feed sheep, there is no such thing as the ‘best cake’ only the ‘right cake’,” advises Mr Hall. “The overall diet must be considered. There is little point in feeding the most expensive, highest energy density cake on the market at the same rate every year; if you are already providing your sheep with an 11ME, 15% CP grass silage. Not only is this expensive, but the sheep will become too fat.”
“Therefore it is crucial to know the nutritional value of what you are feeding, depending on silage quality it may even prove more cost effective to feed a high quality compound but at a lower rate.”
Given that cereal prices at an all-time low, the other option for 2014 is to utilise home grown or even bought in cereals. They can provide a very cost effective method of feeding ewes however when feeding high starch cereals it is vital to consider two key points; which protein source to mix with and how to avoid acidosis.
“Soya or protected soya is the gold standard for breeding ewes, mixing soya and cereals will give you an excellent mix that can be fed alongside silage,” explains Mark. “High Digestible Undegradable Protein (DUP) levels will support excellent milk production ensuring lambs get the best start possible. Failing this a high soya protein pellet can give you a more cost effective option if you are unable to take bulk loads of Soya in a significant tonnage.”
“Acidosis is an ever present threat when feeding cereals, compound feeds rarely reach 40% starch so can be quite safe in sensible quantities, cereal rations can be as high as 60% starch, bringing about rapid acidosis. If ewes are housed then plenty of fresh fibre should be provided and feeds should be split into small quantities that can be fed little and often. If lambing outside ensure there is enough trough space for all the ewes to feed at the same time and where possible try to split feeds into small amounts at regular intervals.”
Attention to detail and knowing exactly what individual elements of the diets are made up of at every stage is the key to tailoring diets to the flocks’ specific nutritional needs ensuring better returns at this crucial time of year.
Countrywide Farmers plc has announced the appointment of Andrew Webb as Chief Commercial Officer to the Board with effect from 5th January 2015.
Reporting to Chief Executive Officer, John Hardman, Andrew Webb will be responsible for leading the exciting new strategy which will see Countrywide become the leading multichannel retailer to the rural community. Andrew brings extensive experience of the development and delivery of successful multi-channel experiences to customers in a wide variety of leading businesses including Equifax, Game Digital, White Stuff, East, and Carphone Warehouse.
Commenting on his appointment, John Hardman said “This is a really important appointment for the business and demonstrates our ambition to provide our customers with the best multichannel shopping experience. We recognise customer buying patterns are evolving and we want to stay at the forefront of these changing trends. Having previously operated as Chief Operating Officer at White Stuff and Chief Executive Officer of East, Andrew has over 20 years’ experience of growing retail and e-commerce brands, where he adopted a highly customer centric approach whilst focusing on loyalty and profit. Andrew's appointment coincides with the roll out of Project Fusion, a new technology platform which will integrate our existing network of 53 stores, in-field sales team, online, and catalogue shopping; it will provide our customers with the widest range of shopping options as well as driving efficiencies across the business.”
Speaking about his appointment Andrew Webb recognises the opportunity in the rural sector, “no one is dominating this space and Countrywide represents a real opportunity to occupy a market leading position in a growing sector. Drawing on the insight from the largest rural loyalty card programme it feels as if the business is on the verge of delivering a step change in service levels to the rural customer. I am excited to be coming to Countrywide to build on all the good work so far and to lead this multichannel implementation.”
Carwyn James, Farmers Apprentice finalist 2014, has been appointed as Ruminant Nutritionist in West Wales at Countrywide Farmers plc, the UK’s leading supplier of products, advice and services to the rural community.
Currently a finalist in the Farmers Apprentice programme being run by Farmers Weekly, Carwyn will be responsible for Ruminant Nutrition in West Wales, where his local knowledge and Welsh language skills will add value to Countrywide’s customers. He is undergoing the award winning Countrywide training programme which includes an in depth course at Harper Adams on dairy nutrition to hone his existing knowledge.
Having been part of the Fresh Start Dairy Academy and the Tesco Future Farmers Foundation, Carwyn has been pro-active in furthering his knowledge and skills. A fourth generation farmer, he farms in partnership with his mother and brother. The 300 acre farm, based in Pembrokeshire has300 breeding ewes and 70 Hereford sucklers, however Carwyn is also looking at diversification options to develop the farm further.
Mr James, said: “I am really excited to take on this role, like many in agriculture I know that there is a bright future and plenty of opportunities to succeed. I’ve always made sure to stay focussed, learn from those more experienced and worked hard. I’m looking forward to developing my knowledge with Countrywide.”
Speaking of Carwyn’s appointment, Alistair Folly, Countrywide’s Agricultural Director, commented: "Carwyn has the essential package that we look for in a new team member, he is knowledgeable, enthusiastic and has the support of his community; we are delighted to have him as part of the growing Countrywide team.”
Mr. Folly continues, “At Countrywide the recruitment process is important in attracting the right people. We are currently visiting with all the leading universities to showcase the graduate opportunities we have. However we would like to highlight that while a degree is desirable, we can see that talented young people such as Carwyn who have shown drive and determination and have practical experience in the industry can be just as knowledgeable.”
Coverage of the Countrywide Pet Event, September 2014
Safety is Critical for Homeowners as They Prepare to Warm Up For Winter
Householders and businesses that use LPG for heating are being urged to ensure all gas appliances have been checked and serviced as winter approaches, to avoid the potential for deadly gas leaks, fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
UKLPG, the trade association for the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry has issued the stern warning as part of Gas Safety Week (15-22 September), an event co-ordinated every year by the Gas Safe Register.
Rob Shuttleworth, chief executive of UKLPG, explains: “Every year thousands of people across the UK are diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning. It is a highly poisonous gas which can kill quickly with no warning and just one of the many reasons that gas appliances need to be serviced and checked every year by a Gas Safe Registered installer.
“It is vitally important to invest in proper boiler and heater maintenance, including portable LPG heaters that may have been stored in a garage or shed over the summer. Calling in a Gas Safe registered fitter to service and safety check your appliances is a small price to pay for the safety of your loved ones.
“Illegal gas fitters can put lives at risk, so always check the engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID card, and if you rent your property make sure you see a copy of the landlord’s gas safety record confirming that a gas safety check has been carried out within the past 12 months.”
Warning signs that a gas appliance isn’t working properly include lazy yellow or orange flames instead of crisp blue ones, black marks on or around the appliance and too much condensation in the room.
Audible carbon monoxide alarms should be fitted at homes that use gas appliances. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness.
For gas safety advice or to find and check an engineer visit the Gas Safe Register website at www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk
‘Coals to Newcastle’ coup for Countrywide Grain
4,400mt of milling wheat exported to France marks a ‘coals to Newcastle’ coup for Countrywide Grain.
“It is very rare for France to import milling wheat,” says Grain Manager for Countrywide Farmers, Edd Britton, “and has only happened once in the last 13 years. This year a wet early summer in France has hit quality meaning more feed wheat and a lot less milling wheat, this leaves France struggling to meet existing commitments. We were able to upgrade feed wheat contracts and pay big premiums at a time of year when wheat is hard to move and premiums are under pressure.”
The milling wheat cargo which left Poole on 19th August follows Countrywide Grain’s first shipment in July - a major milestone for the Amesbury based team which was established in 2013 from Heart of England Grain and the SM Hackett and Son businesses, both already owned by Countrywide Farmers.
The Amesbury office has now exported 11,600mt at harvest out of Poole comprising 3,000mt of feed barley to Ireland, 4400mt of milling wheat to France, 2200mt of OSR to Germany and 2000mt of OSR to Belgium.
“This is an exciting development following so quickly on the back of our first export,” says Grain Manager for Countrywide Farmers, Edd Britton. “Securing such innovative opportunities, good, honest trading, and building strong relationships are all essential as we continue to grow and expand our business.”
Pick your moments….. Buying Opportunities if you’re looking!
By Colin Shepherd, Northern Commodities Manager, Countrywide Farmers
Since our last update almost all markets have seen significant falls in price. We have seen wheat drop by around £35/t and Soya drop by anywhere between £17/t to £50/t depending on the position. On the back of this, all other products have followed, be it rapemeal, distillers, maize, soya hulls or any raw material that a bovine can utilise!
Why has the market fallen so much?
- North American soybean planting has been estimated at 84.1 million acres harvested area, up 11% on 2013 and a record high by more than 7.4million acres. This in itself would give good reason for the market to fall, but combined with yields projected at 45.2bushels per acre and 75% rated good to excellent, is giving a projected U.S. production of 103.42mmt (2013 89.51mmt). If realised, projected stocks will be the highest since 2006/07.
The graph below shows current predicted increases in soya production over the past three years.
- The European rapeseed crop is currently looking like it could be as high as 22.9mmt (up from 21.5mmt in our last article), easily surpassing that seen in 2009 and well up on last year’s 20.7mmt.
- US Corn and wheat crop progress: The US Corn planted area for all purposes in 2014 is estimated at 91.6 million acres, down 4 percent from last year. This represents the lowest planted acreage in the United States since 2010; however, this is the fifth largest corn acreage in the United States since 1944, the crop is currently predicted at just 65mbu below last year’s record crop.
- The UK is looking set for very good grain yields for Wheat and Barley. Whilst Europe appear to be having quality issues with considerable tonnages reportedly not making milling spec and having to find homes as feed wheat, this has added pressure to UK feed wheat markets.
Given another very good year for crops for both Grains and Oilseeds, this year will see ending stocks increase significantly helping ease prices. The crux of it, and the question we get on a daily basis, “are we at the bottom of the market”, is difficult to answer with great confidence with a yes – we haven’t seen this weight of supply for a while and we are working through the potential scenarios here on in. But we believe the following advice stands;
- The current situation provides a very good potential to look for opportunities to put cover in place through to April 2016
- When buying opportunities arise, chip away adding more cover slowly, up to 50% cover through to October 15 or even April 16. Do not be afraid of putting cover down now, for 12 to 18 months forward. Buying forward generally pays.
- Remember historically this time of year proves to be right for putting forward cover on. If feels like the trading range will be tighter for the next 9 months, take advantage of these much lower levels year on year.
- We are through new crop rapeseed and progressing well through wheat in Europe, this harvest will provide opportunities to buy products relatively cheaply – keep talking to your merchant to look for these.
- We know the markets ebb and flow. The next major direction will come from the final numbers on the North American soyabean crop, the northern hemisphere maize crop (both around October) and new crop planting - what acreage is planted and how will it develop are key questions.
Once again Countrywide, the UK’s largest equestrian specialist, are holding their ‘popular Equestrian Events between the 17th and 19th October with amazing offers in stores and online all weekend.
“Our autumn Equestrian Events focus on offering great deals to ensure our customers are stocked up and ready for winter,” says Sara Blackshaw, Equine Category Manager for Countrywide. “We handpick some of our most popular products and make them even better value – just what our customers need to help them meet the rising cost of keeping a horse or pony healthy and happy through the winter.”
Countrywide will be offering a range of special offers over the weekend on Kadence and branded turnout rugs, footwear, hats and body protectors, and also selected products from the feed and bedding range.
Visitors to the Equestrian Events will be able to take advantage of free expertise and advice - from the complexities of autumn worming, to feeding and rugging, from our trained, AMTRA qualified equine specialists.
Equestrian Event – prepare for winter:
- Get rugs cleaned and repaired before the cold weather sets in, ask in store.
- Have barrier cream ready to prevent mud fever.
- Get out your reflective wear to avoid being caught out with the nights drawing in.
- Ask a specialist in store for advice on autumn worming and faecal egg counting kits or order online with Countrywide’s animal health ordering system.
- Get your clipper blades to us for sharpening before winter clips are needed.
- Look into savings on bulk deals before stocking up for winter, ask in store.
Don’t forget your catalogue
Visitors will also be able to pick up the latest Countrywide Equestrian Catalogue. The glossy 150 page catalogue now has 7,500 products to choose from, and provides ‘everything for you, and your horse, all in one place’ from a staggering array of clothing, safety wear and footwear to all you could ever need for your horse and pony featuring all the best brands: Jeffries Saddlery, Ariat, Gatehouse, Robert Lemieux Horse Health and Countrywide’s own Kadence range.
“Visitors should also consider signing up to our Countryclub reward scheme which will give them 2 points for every £1 they spend – plus a 500 point bonus when they join, and double points on our great Kadence products. All the more reason to come along – we look forward to seeing you there,” says Sara Blackshaw.
Mild winter impacts trading results for Countrywide Farmers
Leading supplier of products and advice to the rural community, Countrywide Farmers, today announced full year results to 31st May 2014 as the mild winter of 2013/14 and a falling commodity market significantly impacted the financial performance
Figures released today reveal a 2.5% fall in group turnover to £298.2m(2013: £306.0m) and a fall in operating profit before exceptional costs to £1.9m(2013:£4.3m).
“These are disappointing results, particularly in the light of last year” commented Chairman Nigel Hall, “however the reasons are very clear. Trading conditions in general remain challenging and though the Company is well placed to address this environment, the mild winter impacted upon our business with a fall in volumes of 20% in LPG sales and 15% in compound feed sales”.
“We are confident that 2015 will see an improvement as we believe progress can be made across all areas of the business. A more normal winter will also have a positive impact upon profit. Our growth strategy remains focused on delivering a true multi-channel approach to service our customers and to increase market share. Our investments in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and a fully integrated IT platform will help deliver substantial progress in the near term". Concludes Mr Hall.
Commenting on the results John Hardman, Chief Executive recognised the impact of the weather but believes the underlying strength of the business is robust and that the future performance of the business will be significantly improved by the further development of its multi-channel strategy.
“We have finished the analysis and design stage of Project Fusion, a project looking at overhauling all processes across the business and implementing a fully integrated IT platform. We are now ready to implement technology which will draw together our existing 53 store network, in-field sales team, on-line, E-commerce and telephone traders, all aimed at enhancing the experience of our customers and making it easier for them to access the products they need, as well as driving efficiency across the business”.
Sales from Countrywide Farmers agriculture and energy business saw a decline in turnover to £201.8m (2013 - £214.4m) due to lower LPG and compound feed volumes.
The alternative feeds and arable business both showed increases in turnover and operating profit. The arable business has grown significantly and the integration of the trading businesses acquired over the last 2 years has created a strong platform with the ambition in the near term to trade 1million tonnes of grain and continue to offer the arable industry a growing alternative.
Although trading remained challenging during the year the retail business grew like for like sales by 0.5%, despite the mild weather adversely affecting a number of key categories. Margins fell slightly due to a successful initiative to clear terminal stock.
During 2014 more than 23,000 new customers joined the Countryclub loyalty card with total membership now exceeding 145,000.
“We now have the largest loyalty card programme within the rural sector”, comments Mr Hardman, “providing us with invaluable data to help focus our customer service. We have responded to feedback from customers and launched this year our first equine catalogue, a key component of our multi-channel strategy. ”
The UK economy is showing clear signs of recovery and increasingly observers are commenting on a return to what appears to be long term growth.
“Although some agricultural commodity prices are under pressure I believe the outlook for agriculture remains positive as global demand for food, renewable energy and rural access and development remains strong. Against this backdrop I anticipate a stronger business performance from Countrywide in 2015”
Finally I would like to thank all our employees who continue to work tirelessly in the support of our business and the rural community. They are our heritage and when armed with industry leading information technology systems will continue to be the backbone of the business as we move forward.”
Countrywide Farmers, leading supplier of products and services to the rural community, is one of the first retailers in the UK to offer a new and innovative delivery solution to its customers.
Online shoppers can now opt to have their purchases delivered to a Doddle parcel shop, to be picked up at a suitable time, avoiding the inconvenience of missed home deliveries. It follows a successful trial at Doddle’s pilot shop in Milton Keynes.
Located in Network Rail train stations and major hubs, Doddle is the UK’s first fully dedicated, staffed, online shopping collection and returns service. Over the next three years Doddle will open 300 parcel shops across the UK, the first of which include key locations at London Cannon Street, Brighton, London Waterloo, Three Bridges, Bromley and Chelmsford.
Brian McArdle, Online Channel Manager, Countrywide said: "As each Doddle parcel shop opens Countrywide customers will be able to have their items delivered to those locations. The majority of Countrywide customers are based in the rural community and subsequently spend a great deal of time living and working outside, which proves to be inconvenient when it comes to home deliveries. We have for some time been looking at various solutions to this challenge to ensure customers receive greater flexibility and value when shopping online with Countrywide.
Doddle offers a good opportunity to further grow and develop Countrywide's online offer and operate as a true multichannel rural retailer."
Online shoppers will be able to use the Doddle service on items weighing under 16 kilograms and packages measuring less than 50x50x40 centimetres in size.
Tim Robinson, Chief Executive of Doddle, said: “The Doddle service will complement and enhance the existing delivery options already open to people shopping online with Countrywide Farmers. Our dedicated shops are open seven days a week, early until late, which means they fit in perfectly with people that spend large parts of the day away from home.”
3,000t of feed barley exported to Southern Ireland marks a major milestone for the Countrywide Farmers Grain team.
The first export for the team, established in 2013, the shipment departed Poole docks on 21st July and will be swiftly followed by a consignment of oilseed rape to fuel the German bio diesel market.
“This first export is a real landmark for Countrywide Grain as our business continues to develop,” says Countrywide Grain Manager, Edd Britton. “We have had considerable local support allowing us to keep haulage rates down and pass the benefit back to our customers. Over the next few months and, with a good harvest, we will be exporting more out of both Poole and Portbury as we continue to grow our business on the back of innovative, good and honest trading.”
Formed in 2013 from Heart of England Grain and the SM Hackett and Son businesses, both already owned by Countrywide Farmers, Countrywide Grain now trades from offices in Preston Capes, Amesbury, Wiltshire and Newport in Shropshire and benefits from close links to leading blue chip millers and major feed compounders.
“We now have substantial supply agreements,” continues Mr Britton, “and offer customers the opportunity to market a wide range of crops, from feed grains and milling wheat to malting barley, with a business they can work with and trust.”
As part of Countrywide Farmers, Countrywide Grain is the final link in a chain that extends from the supply of seed, fertiliser, chemicals and agronomic support through to the final grain contract and delivery.
“Building strong relationships is vital in business,” says Mr Britton, “and we focus on establishing strong bonds between customers and our experienced trading team, allowing them to deal with the same person from start to finish. It is all part of the Countrywide ethos and our on-going commitment to the arable sector.”
For more information please visit www.countrywidefarmers.co.uk or call Countrywide Grain on 01386 429729
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Sara Blackshaw Equine Category Manager from Countrywide Farmers the UK’s largest equestrian specialist answers:
We all look forward to the summer when we can spend long hours at the yard and out riding in the sunshine. However with these warm conditions arrives the horse owners’ nightmare: the fly.
What is available?
- Fly masks
- Fly rugs
- Fly spray
- Insecticidal shampoos
You can use a combination of all or just a few depending on the severity of the fly problem. Some rugs even have specially designed sprays which can be applied to the rug and can last up to 30 days.
Top advice to protect your horse from flies
- Prevent where possible - There are lots of fly rugs, masks and sprays on the market and these can be effective in preventing bites. It is important to keep rugs clean, it may be worth having two rugs – one to use while the other is being cleaned.
- A clean environment - Remove droppings and soiled bedding as soon as possible while stabled and similarly in the field, regularly poo-pick and clear out the muck heap.
- Be aware of the time - flying insects are most active in the early morning and at dusk – ensure your horse has shelter, a fresh application of spray or is rugged at these times.
- Dirt and sweat attract flies - Your horse as well as its rugs must be kept as clean as possible particularly after exercise. Hosing off or using an insecticidal shampoo is advised, although shampoos should not be overused as it will remove natural oils and dry-out skin.
- Avoid water - Insects are attracted to standing water and love warm, damp conditions so try and keep your horses away from large puddles, ponds and avoid turnout in boggy fields.
- Soothing bites - There are many products available that can soothe bites that have occurred. However if these become large, infected or if you are worried seek veterinary advice.
Your local Countrywide equestrian specialist will be able to give advice on the various fly products available including getting the right fit and picking the correct sprays and soothing creams. Safety and comfort are paramount for all equestrian products, so getting advice from an in store equestrian specialist will ensure that you have all the information you need to make the correct purchase.