Local ice cream company BICO Limited is making a comeback after over three years of struggle, following a fire that destroyed its Harbour Road cold storage plant in August 2009.
For the financial year ending September 30, 2013, the company recorded a profit for the first time since 2010.
After-tax profit for the period under review was $374,244, compared to an after tax loss of $24,555 the previous year. When compared to the 2012 financial year, ice cream sales increased by six per cent last year while cold store revenue increased by about nine per cent for the same period.
What is more, executive chairman Edwin Thirlwell told reporters today that BICO had already recorded an increase of ten per cent in ice cream sales and cold storage revenue for the first quarter of the current financial year, when compared to the previous year.
He was speaking during the annual media conference to discuss the companies 2013 annual report.
Thirwell said the 100-year-old company was also constantly finding ways to reduce its operation costs.
“We are fortunate, in that we saw the problems coming early and we took evasive action . . . took the actions we had to,” he said.
“Despite the doom and gloom surrounding everyone in Barbados [which] is endemic really, we can’t complain. We have actually had quite a good year despite everything; but it is not easy,” reported the executive chairman.
One of the early measures the company took was to introduce new flavours at the various scoop shops in an effort to attract and keep customers. Recently, BICO also introduced cheaper forms of products, especially in anticipation of massive layoffs within the public sector, said Thirlwell.
Newly appointed general manager Jo-anne Pooler added that the company was also packaging some of its frozen items in small sizes and promoting them as “home products”.
Despite these measures, however, Thirlwell said the company remained in “a survival mode” as the market continued to be price-sensitive and the future remained “uncertain”.
He said while the company was keeping the lid on price increases, “obviously the time will come when we can’t”.
Stressing that the current local business and economic climate was “not easy”, Thirlwell said the company was “almost doing handstands and cartwheels to make sure if there is any business out there we are getting it”.
“We are in a situation where it is every man for himself. We are in survival of the fittest mode. It is no time for complacency and no time for sitting back and saying ‘that will do’. We have to go the extra mile,” said the chairman.
“Since 2010 we have been gradually ratcheting down, belt-tightening and reducing our overheads, cutting our costs and making sure that we are in survival mode. The first objective was of course to try and preserve jobs,” he added.
BICO currently employs 75 full-time staff members. The mobile fleet, wholesale and hospitality sectors continued to perform well. Thirlwell said too that sales of the speciality products continued to perform above expectation.
“In fact, it is fair to say that since the [economic] downturn we have increased our market share,” he said.
In an effort to continue on a growth path, he said BICO was currently looking for markets to start exporting to.
The company will not be paying a dividend for the year ending September 30, 2013 as the company continues to rebuild its capital base.
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