Blog

Results for Year Ending 30 November 2016 and Strategic Update

Countrywide Farmers plc ("Countrywide" or "the Company"), one of the UK's leading suppliers of products, services and advice to the rural community, today publishes full year results and makes a further announcement as it continues to develop its business strategy.

The Company releases final results for the year ending 30 November 2016. The Company reports a loss after tax from continuing operations for the period of £(9.9)m (2015: £(8.2)m) following disappointing trading performance and continued investment through what has been a period of considerable change and transition, including the full rollout of the Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP system across the business.

Further to the confirmation of 14 retail store closures in February, which formed an important part of re-positioning the Retail business for profitable growth in the future, the Board continues to review the strategic direction and profitability of the Company as a whole. It is clear to the Board that the retail environment remains challenging and that to compete effectively for the long-term will require further rationalisation of the cost base along with potential further investment. With the operational challenges outlined above, three business units all requiring investment, together with a legacy pension scheme to fund, the Board has to prioritise the opportunities that will deliver the greatest returns.

Countrywide therefore announces today that it has appointed advisors PwC to explore a potential sale of the Retail business. The Retail business consists of 53 Country Stores supported by a field sales team and back office teams enabled by the newly implemented Multichannel/ERP system. It is not anticipated that the Rural Energy - LPG or Turf and Amenity businesses will be impacted by this decision.

Trading performance in the new financial year continues in line with expectations. Rural Energy has seen a strong start with volumes ahead of prior year, as it continues to pursue its growth strategy. Similarly, Turf and Amenity has also made an encouraging start to the year. Retail continues to see improvement in like-for-like performance and on-shelf availability after facing serious issues through the latter part of last year. Stabilisation of the new Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP system and associated working practices have seen encouraging progress over recent months. In addition, renewed focus on working capital management has delivered significantly lower levels of receivables and improved quality combined with lower levels of inventory.

Countrywide also announces that it has recently concluded positive discussions with its bank and has agreed funding facilities that support the requirements of the entire Company for the foreseeable future.

The Company's annual report is published on both the Corporate and Asset Match websites and will be posted to shareholders by 27 April 2017 followed by an AGM on Friday 26 May 2017.

The Directors of Countrywide Farmers plc accept full responsibility for this statement

Find more information about Countrywide at www.countrywidefarmers.co.uk

Countrywide Farmers plc

John Hardman (CEO)

Tel: 01386 429511

Julie Wirth (CFO)

PwC Corporate Finance

Tel: 029 2080 2093

Marc Davies [email protected]

Walbrook PR Ltd

Tel: 020 7933 8780 or Mob: 07980 541 893

Paul McManus (Media Relations) [email protected]


Store Closures

Countrywide Farmers plc, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of products, services and advice to the rural community, announces store closures as it seeks to re-position the business for profitable growth moving forward.

Following on from the Trading Update in January, the Board is continuing to take decisive action to reduce costs and improve profitability. As part of these changes, Countrywide announces today that 14 of its 68 stores will close by the end of March, with a proportion of sales currently transacted through those stores expected to transfer to other locations. This change forms an important part in re-positioning the retail business for profitable growth in the future, recognising that online will play an increasingly vital role alongside physical stores in the multichannel retail world.

Trading performance in the early part of the year has been broadly in line with expectations. Rural Energy has seen a strong start with volumes ahead of prior year, as it continues to pursue its growth strategy. Retail like for like performance has stabilised with encouraging improvement in on-shelf availability.

The rollout of our new IT infrastructure was completed in January with all Cornwall Farmers stores successfully transitioned. Stabilisation of the system continues to improve alongside embedding new working practices.

Supportive conversations continue with key stakeholders around ongoing funding of the business through what continues to be a transitional period of change.

Commenting on store closures, John Hardman, Chief Executive Officer, said: "This has been a difficult decision which affects loyal and committed store teams but will enable re-positioning the Retail business for success moving forward."

The Company expects to release final results for the 52 week period to the 27 November 2016 by the end of March 2017 followed by an AGM in May 2017.

The Directors of Countrywide Farmers plc accept full responsibility for this statement

Find more information about Countrywide at www.countrywidefarmers.co.uk

Countrywide Farmers plc

John Hardman (CEO)

Julie Wirth (CFO)

Walbrook PR Ltd

Tel: 020 7933 8780 or Mob: 07980 541 893

Paul McManus (Media Relations) [email protected]


Countrywide Horse Feed Range Extended with Equine Straights

Horse Feed Range Extended with Equine Straights

We’re pleased to announce our range of Countrywide Horse Feed has been extended to include Equine Straights, giving customers more control over the diet of their horse.

Straights are single-ingredient grains like oats, barley and bran which can be fed in combination with forage and balancers to provide a horse with all the nutrients they need. In contrast to pre-mixed compound feeds, feeding straights allows owners to control the ingredients in their horse’s diet, making it a good option for horses with particular dietary requirements. It also allows owners to avoid certain ingredients if they would prefer, and add more energy when required.

The feed range includes:

  • Premium Bruised Oats in 20kg and 10kg bags
  • Premium Rolled Barley in 20kg and 10kg bags
  • Broad Bran in 18kg and 8kg bags
  • Sugar Beet Pellets in 10kg bags

Sara Blackshaw, our Equestrian Product Manager said: “We are delighted to be rolling out our own range of feeding straights at our stores and online, giving customers more options when selecting food for their horses. We identified the need for NOPS accredited straights, as competition riders particularly need to know what their horses are being fed.”

To complement the range we’ve also added a completely Natural Chaff made up of premium oat straw, dried grass with added mint in 15kg bags. This addition to the range is ideal for feeding with straights, balancers or compound feeds to slow chew time, which will reduce the risk of gastric ulcers and add essential fibre to a horse’s daily diet.

We would recommend that customers seek advice from a nutritionist and our own Equestrian Specialists on their horse’s dietary requirements. Equestrian Specialists are available in our stores to offer advice and will happily recommend feed, supplements and equipment to meet horses’ needs.

The new Countrywide Equine Straights range is now available in our stores across the UK and online, with home delivery or free click-and-collect from stores.

Shop Online


Introducing our New Working Dog Food Range

Working Dog Food Range

We’ve launched a new range of working dog food to provide active dogs with the balanced and nutritious diet they need. The new line of dry complete food is backed by the most-up-to-date research on canine nutrition.

The five varieties of Countrywide Working Dog food provide balanced proteins, carbohydrates and nutrients to ensure a long and happy working life for active dogs, including farm and gun dogs.

Countrywide Working Dog is manufactured in the UK and available in large 15kg bag sizes with formulations to suit different energy requirements. The Salmon, Chicken and Duck with Rice recipes have been developed for dogs in work, while the Muesli and Chicken & Veg products are designed for dogs during periods of lower activity.

The new range has a clear fixed list of ingredients and varieties based around meat, fish, rice and vegetables to suit all canine diets and food intolerances or sensitivities.

Pet Product Manager, Mel Malin said: “With a heritage of caring for animals dating back to 1902, Countrywide has a huge amount of experience in pet nutrition which we brought to the development of this new range. The level of science applied to canine food is equivalent to human food these days. You won’t see terms like ‘meat and animal derivatives’ in our range; instead, you’ll know exactly what you’re feeding your dog and the range is sensitive to allergies or intolerances.”

Our Pet Specialists are available in store to offer advice on animal health and nutrition and can help with any questions about feeding working dogs.

The new Countrywide Working Dog range is now available in our stores across the UK and online, with home delivery or free click-and-collect from stores.

Shop Online


Directorate Change at Countrywide Farmers

Following a recent strategic review by the board, a decision has been taken to streamline the senior retail team. As a result, the role of Chief Commercial Officer is no longer required, and regrettably Andrew Webb is leaving the business.

The Board of Directors would like to thank Andrew for his considerable contribution at Countrywide over the past 18 months and wish him well for the future.


Directorate change and result of the General Meeting

At the Annual General Meeting held on 27 April 2016, and subsequent to his initial announcement in November 2015, Mr Nigel Hall resigned from the position of Chairman and Non-Executive Director of the Board of the Company. Mr Hall had been a Non-Executive Director since 2005 and Chairman since November 2007. The Board of Directors would like to thank Mr Hall for his significant contribution to improving the business over the last 11 years and wish him well for the future.

Following the AGM, the Company is pleased to announce that Mr Gareth Thomas has been elected to take over the role of Chairman of the company. Mr Thomas brings a wealth of retail experience having spent most of his career with John Lewis culminating in a directorship on the main board which he held for ten years. Mr Thomas also holds a number of Non- Executive positions and is well positioned to lead the business to future growth.

At the General Meeting held on 27 April 2016, the shareholders approved a special resolution to amend the Company’s Articles of Association on a show of hands.

At the Annual General Meeting held on 27 April 2016, the first eight ordinary resolutions proposed were passed on a show of hands.

Resolution 9 concerning the authority to allot shares was approved. This resolution was passed on a poll vote where the holders of 2,576,715 shares voted in favour of the resolution representing 96.24% of the vote and holders of 69,562 shares voted against the resolution representing 2.60% of the vote. The holders of 31,041 shares, representing 1.16% of the vote, withheld their votes.

Resolution 10 concerning the disapplication of pre-emption rights was approved. The resolution was passed on a poll vote where the holders of 2,522,476 shares voted in favour of the resolution representing 94.22% of the vote and holders of 127,336 shares voted against the resolution representing 4.76% of the vote. The holders of 27,506 shares, representing 1.03% of the vote, withheld their votes.

Details of all resolutions are detailed in the Notice to the General meetings in the Annual Report.


Annual Report and Accounts for the 18 month period ending 30 November 2015

Countrywide Farmers plc today announce the publication of the Annual Report and Accounts for the 18 month period ending 30 November 2015.

Annual report and accounts for the 18 month period ended 30 November 2015


Countrywide Board Changes

Countrywide Farmers plc, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of products, services and advice to the rural community, announces that its Non-Executive Chairman, Nigel Hall, has confirmed his intention to retire from the Board at the Company’s AGM in April 2016. Nigel Hall has been a Non-Executive Director since 2005 and Chairman since November 2007. He will be replaced by Gareth Thomas, who brings a wealth of retail experience following an extensive career with John Lewis plc, together with holding a number of non-executive roles.

Commenting on his decision, Nigel Hall said "Following the disposal of our bulk agriculture businesses earlier this year, the clarification of our strategy to develop Countrywide Farmers Retail, LPG and Turf and Amenity businesses and the recent acquisition of Cornwall Farmers, the Company is now well positioned to deliver long term shareholder value. With these foundations in place I have decided that this is an appropriate time to retire as Chairman."

Gareth Thomas will join the Board on 4 January 2016 as Non-Executive Director and will take over the role of Non-Executive Chairman following the AGM in April 2016.

Gareth began his career with John Lewis as a graduate trainee in 1979. In 2000 he was appointed to the main board of John Lewis as Director, Retail Operations, then was Director, Design and Development before retiring from the role of Retail Director in 2010. Latterly, Gareth had responsibility for £3 billion turnover and over 30,000 Partner employees, as well as property, design and new formats. As its longest serving Director, he was instrumental in the modernisation and transformation of the department store group, including building its multi-channel capabilities to the point where the on-line business accounted for around one third of total turnover. Since 2010, Gareth has held a number of non-executive positions including non-executive directorships on the Boards of Share plc Group, and Shoppers Stop, India. He was also until recently Trustee and Deputy Chairman of Save the Children, and is currently Trustee of TATE and Chairman of Tate Enterprises Ltd., and Trustee of the American Museum in Britain.

Commenting on the Board changes, John Hardman, Chief Executive Officer, said: “Nigel has made an outstanding contribution to the business over the last ten years and we are all incredibly grateful for his support, leadership and guidance during that time. Nigel’s departure and the arrival of Gareth comes at a time of transition when we have refocused our Retail business and taken positive action to support further expansion and profit growth in our energy business. Gareth’s experience in retail will be invaluable as we continue to extend the reach of our store network and e-commerce offering. I look forward to working with Gareth at a time when the business is well positioned for future growth.”

Following the change of accounting reference date from 31 May to 29 November the Company expects to release final results for the 18 month period at the end of February 2016 followed by an AGM on the 27th April 2016.


Countrywide Farmers completes Cornwall Farmers acquisition

Countrywide Farmers has completed the acquisition of the trading business of Cornwall Farmers in Cornwall and Devon.

The deal, which was first announced last month, sees Countrywide take on the operation of all 12 Cornwall Farmers’ country stores in Cornwall and Devon for a total consideration of £6.050m. It is intended that Countrywide will retain the Cornwall Farmers name.

The move creates more choice for Cornwall Farmers’ customers and gives Countrywide a bigger presence in the South West. The deal takes the Countrywide store portfolio to 67, creating the largest store group of its kind in the UK. Cornwall Farmers Ltd will retain the freehold property, with Countrywide entering into long lease agreements as tenant of the stores

Countrywide Farmers chief executive, John Hardman, said: "We are delighted to have reached completion and look forward to offering industry leading products at competitive prices to customers across Cornwall and Devon. We will be working with the Cornwall Farmers team to integrate the business over the coming months and plan to introduce our convenient 'click and collect’ service very soon."

Simon Birch, chief executive of Cornwall Farmers, said: "This deal brings continuity for customers and staff and creates a secure long-term income for our shareholders, underpinned by a strong asset base.

"Countrywide has a deep commitment to rural communities and the combination of greater choice and continued investment is good news for customers across the South West."


Countrywide Farmers to acquire trading business of Cornwall Farmers

Countrywide Farmers is to acquire the trading business of Cornwall Farmers in a move that will create more choice for Cornwall Farmers customers and give Countrywide a bigger presence in the South West.

Under the terms of the deal, which is expected to complete early next month, Countrywide will take on the operation of all 12 Cornwall Farmers country stores in Cornwall and Devon for a total consideration of £6.050m. Cornwall Farmers Ltd will retain the freehold property, with Countrywide entering into long lease agreements as tenant.

Commenting on the deal, Countrywide Farmers Chief Executive, John Hardman, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring together these two highly respected brands to create a stronger offering to our customers. Cornwall Farmers has a long and proud history with experienced, knowledgeable staff. We look forward to welcoming them and the store network in Cornwall and Devon to the Countrywide family.”

Simon Birch, Chief Executive of Cornwall Farmers, said: “This deal is good news for our customers in the South West. It combines our local knowledge and expertise with Countrywide’s national buying power and multiple sales channels, which include online and click and collect services. Importantly, it ensures continuity of service for the rural communities Cornwall Farmers has served in Cornwall and Devon for many years, with access to the same network of stores, staffed by the same people.

“In agreeing a sale we wanted to find a partner who would continue to serve our rural communities across Cornwall and Devon and provide greater customer choice. The deal with Countrywide does all these things and allows Cornwall Farmers to retain a strong property asset base with recurring income from a secure long-term tenant.”

The 12 Cornwall Farmers stores will take the Countrywide store portfolio to 66, creating the largest store group of its kind in the UK. The enlarged portfolio will increase further with Countrywide scheduled to launch new stores in Shrewsbury, Salisbury and Swansea in September and October.

Countrywide intends to retain the Cornwall Farmers name in Cornwall and Devon and quickly introduce retail innovations to the Cornwall Farmers store network, including its free ‘click and collect’ service and an extended product range through its Agricultural Catalogue, which features more than 8000 products.

The new store footprint across Devon and Cornwall will also provide customers the opportunity to access Countrywide’s wider businesses, including market leading LPG Rural Energy and Turf & Amenity products and services.

In addition to growing the store portfolio, Countrywide is investing over £5m in a new IT platform which will transform the way the business operates.

John added: “The combination of this deal and the major investment in our new operating platform will support our ambition to deliver a seamless customer experience across our country stores, sales teams, online, catalogue and loyalty card scheme. Once the new system roll-out is completed by summer 2016, customers will be able to use their mobile, tablet or PC to click and collect at a store of their choice, as well as continuing to use all the traditional sales teams and stores to access our products and services.”

Following a period of major change in the Countrywide business and to support ongoing investment, revised banking facilities have been put in place with HSBC Bank plc, comprising a revolving credit facility of £20,000,000 repayable in full in September 2018 and an overdraft facility of £5,000,000 reviewable annually.

Mr Hardman added: “Both business strategies have followed parallel paths in recent years allowing each business to focus on delivering a quality range of products and services to make country life better. We are committed to delivering exceptional service and value to the rural sector, especially at a time when UK farming is facing considerable challenges on a number of fronts.”