Gregory Distribution is looking to the future with the appointment of a new MD, the expansion of its apprenticeship training programme and the opening of a new depot.

This month Gregory Distribution’s deputy MD Angela Butler became MD, after the retirement of Andy Walker in May.

The company, which is a member of Palletline and Palletways, is also set to open a new 25,000ft² drive-through, transhipment facility in July. The facility will also provide 15,000ft² of warehousing and parking for around 50 vehicles and 80 trailers.

The new depot, which is in the northwest of Plymouth close to the A38 Expressway, will consolidate a number of the company’s operations in the Plymouth area and accommodate its growing pallet network business.

Gregory Distribution, which has its headquarters in North Tawton in Devon, is also looking to take on 80 apprentices.

It came as the company reported a 15% fall in pre-tax profit to £5.5m (2016: £6.6m) in its latest annual results to 30 September 2017, which it attributed in part to the continuing impact of the loss of a major client in 2016, along with “tough” market conditions.

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Speaking to MT, John Gregory said the firm had offset the losses to a large extent through winning new contracts in the year and growing its business with existing customers.

He added: “Losing a major customer is significant but we have delivered more than 30 years of underlying growth, so it is part of the cycle. We may have gone back marginally but the long term trend is upwards.”

Turnover in the period was 3% down year-on-year at £160m (2016: £165m). Turnover including a contribution from Scottish joint venture Hayton Coulthard was £171m  (2016: £176m).

New MD takes the reins

Gregory added that Butler’s appointment made for a “seamless transition” for the firm. He added: “Angela has been with us for seven years and has been working with myself and Andy for the past two years to prepare for the transition.”

Gregory said the market continued to be tough but added that customers are recognising the challenges hauliers face.

He said: “Fortunately most customers are realistic about the need to invest in the rising cost of transport. It is all very well having a tender that drives prices down but most of our customers realise there are factors such as rising fuel and labour costs that are bound to impact on the cost of transport.”

The driver shortage has prompted the firm to put more money in its existing apprenticeship training programme. Gregory said: “This is an ambitious plan to bring as many apprentices into the business this year and in the future. What we are trying to do is to control our own destiny in the light of the driver shortage.”

The group dissolved its subsidiaries PF Holdings and Framptons Transport Services in July last year. In the same year the firm integrated Kay’s Transport, which it bought in 2009, into the business.