Iconic shortbread maker Walker’s overcomes 'incredibly challenging year' to report rise in sales and profits
Accounts for 2021 show that the iconic Speyside food business, which remains family owned, generated a turnover of £142.4 million, compared with £132.4m the year before. Operating profit more than doubled to £6.2m from £3m.
The latest results, for the 12 months to the end of December 2021, also reveal that export revenues increased to £79.8m from £72.6m a year earlier.
The board and executive committee spent time assessing the impact of a range of operational challenges, including the Covid pandemic, supply chain issues and rising costs, with that conversation said to be “continuing to date” amid renewed inflationary pressures. A new brand identity was launched, in a bid to appeal to “new and existing consumers alike”. The past year also saw the passing of joint managing director Joe Walker.
Nicky Walker was promoted to the post of managing director at the start of this year. Walker, who joined the firm 25 years ago, was appointed to the board in 2007 as production director, and is said to have been instrumental, working alongside his late father, Joe, in developing the company’s facilities in Aberlour and Elgin.
Reflecting on the year under review, Walker said: “2021 was an incredibly challenging year to navigate and we’re pleased with the results and the return to pre-pandemic trading levels. We could not have done this without the support of our incredible workforce who have demonstrated time and again that they step up when required.
“Operating conditions continued to be challenging but our top priority throughout the year continued to be the safety and wellbeing of our team. The successful roll out of the vaccine programme assisted with a return to a more efficient operating model, which was welcome given the uncontrollable external challenges specifically in labour availability.
“We accept that the trading conditions in 2022 are equally, if not more, challenging given the many difficulties facing world economies but we are committed to transitioning the business accordingly to maintain a sustainable footing for the future.
“The Walker’s brand relaunch is progressing well through 2022 and will continue into next year as we focus forward to support the business’ aspiration for sustainable growth.”
He added: “In 2023 we will celebrate our 125th anniversary, taking time to reflect on the hard work of our loyal workforce and everyone’s achievements to date.”
Director Sir Jim Walker said: “I’ve been privileged to help to develop the company over many years and am very pleased to support the appointment of Nicky as managing director. He has had 25 years of experience in the company and will be fully supported by a strong team of family and non-family directors and managers.”
Profit for the year was assisted by growth in overseas markets as demand remained strong in key territories, the firm noted.
Seasonal festive markets at home and abroad also witnessed growth as consumers returned to “a degree of normality” following the Covid-19 disrupted season in 2020.
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