Vimto maker Nichols sees profits slump after hospitality closures hit sales

Holly Williams, PA Deputy City Editor

Vimto maker Nichols has seen annual profits slump by 80% after coronavirus lockdowns and the closure of hospitality outlets decimated sales.

The company, which also owns the Sunkist and Levi Roots drinks brands, revealed that pre-tax profits tumbled to £6.5 million from £32.4 million in 2019 after a year of “unequalled challenges”.

It said the enforced closure of pubs, restaurants, cinemas and theme parks saw revenues plummet 61.4% in its so-called out-of-home market – where it supplies dispensed soft drinks, slushes and coffee products.

This saw total sales fall 19.3% to £118.7 million and Nichols withheld guidance for the year ahead due to “continued uncertainty” amid the pandemic.

Shares in the firm fell 4% after the results.

Chairman John Nichols said the group had enjoyed a robust start to 2020 before the crisis struck, with first-quarter revenues up 6.2%.

He added: “The arrival of the pandemic in our markets at the end of the first quarter was a watershed moment for the year.

“The introduction of social distancing, the enforced closure of the group’s out-of-home customers and the various lockdown measures introduced across the globe materially impacted our business.”

Despite the pandemic impact, Mr Nichols said the group put in a “resilient” financial performance, with grocery sales gaining market share.

On an underlying basis, pre-tax profits fell 64.2% to £11.6 million.

Nichols launched a review of its business last year following recent acquisitions and has recently cut around 20 roles in its out-of-home division as part of the overhaul.

It booked redundancy costs of £723,000 in the results.

The group has also seen a recent changeover at the top, with chief executive Marnie Millard quitting at the end of 2020 after seven years leading the Merseyside-based company.

She was replaced by chief operating officer Andrew Milne on January 1.