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Carex pandemic sales boom boosts PZ Cussons as boss says turnaround strategy ‘is in place’

Naomi Ackerman
·3-min read
<p>The UK saw “unprecedented” demand for hand sanitisers in particular in the six months to December, the company said </p> (PZ Cussons)

The UK saw “unprecedented” demand for hand sanitisers in particular in the six months to December, the company said

(PZ Cussons)

Pandemic demand for Carex helped PZ Cussons see revenues up worldwide in the six months to December, and its chief executive said today that he is ploughing some of the company’s newfound cash back into the business to fuel its turnaround.

Jonathan Myers, who took over the consumer goods group at the height of the Covid-19 first wave last May, told the Standard that Carex was the FTSE 250 firm’s “fastest growing brand” in the period, as the UK saw “unprecedented growth” in demand.

Carex and the 140-year-old company’s other “focus brands” - which include St Tropez and Cussons Baby - saw sales up by nearly 22% overall.

The boost saw group revenues in the period jump 10.2% to £321.9 million, although pre-tax profits fell slightly from £36.8 million to £36.3 million due to some “already evident” higher raw material and other costs.

Myers, who noted the firm has taken to Government assistance since the pandemic broke out, said the company now has its turnaround strategy in place.

The former Kelloggs and Avon executive, who believes PZ Cussons’ range of products means the firm has a “natural hedge”, said: “Our revenue growth was solid double digit, which is just under 15% growth, with all three of our regions growing. Our net debt is down to £18 million, vs £138 million last year, so material and significant improvement.

“We’ve been working on the organisation... We’ve really been trying to get the executive leadership team that is going to deliver a multi-year turnaround in place.

“Our business hadn’t been growing for a number of years... Where we’ve had some momentum this year, we have tried to take that as an opportunity to reinvest in the business, rather than have a boom and bust [attitude] of letting it all flow to the bottom line. We have tried to invest in the capabilities so that we’re able to deliver that more sustained turnaround once we move out of the crazier times that we’ve had this year.

“I was excited when I got here, and now, having done the strategy work and seeing how the organisation has responded in the last nine months, I’m even more excited about the opportunities ahead. It’s going to take time, and there is heavy lifting ahead, but we have that strategy in place.”

The firm stated that it plans “to continue to increase investment in our brands” despite Covid-19 posing the risk of weaker consumer confidence.

Chairwoman Caroline Silver said: “The organisation has been stabilised in the last twelve months with the arrival of Jonathan Myers as CEO and his new management team.

“The external environment continues to remain very challenging and volatile, but we remain focused on developing our strategic plans that will benefit all stakeholders in the longer term.”

The company said it would issue an interim dividend per share of 2.67p.

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