Northamber chairman David Phillip signalled his intention to take more of a backseat as he announced interim results that suggested profitability remains just tantalisingly out of reach for the veteran distie for now.
Phillips reported revenues of £29m for the six months ending December 31, a 1.2 per cent dip on the previous year. Gross profit came in at £2.25m, compared to the previous year's £2.24m. This resulted in a pre-tax loss of £539,000 compared to the previous year's £547,000 loss.
In its previous figures, Phillips said that as a result of "more consultative, solution-driven sales, I am pleased to be able to announce an increase in gross profit to £4.8m, driven by a gross margin improvement to 7.8 per cent from just over 7 per cent for the previous year." By Northamber's standards, this was an uncommonly cheery note.
Today, in a statement, Phillips said: "After the tentative and optimistic comments in my last report to you in October last year, it is a little disappointing to report a timing mismatch in progress, albeit there are some positive factors for the half year to 31 December 2016."
Phillips went on to say that while the continued realignment had resulted in an "intended reduction in turnover", resulting in "considerable improvement" in gross profits, "this achievement has been somewhat offset by the longer than anticipated timeframe needed to reduce identified overheads."
The transition from "hardware-type products" to "the softer type", such as security and protection devices, was slower than hoped, but had nevertheless underpinned the improvement in growth margins and gone some way to offsetting reduced sales volumes.
Looking ahead, Phillips said: "Progress is being made in certain areas, only for such gains then being dissipated by matters beyond our control.
"As previously cautioned, to reach positive returns may take some patience."
The often lugubrious Phillips also signalled that he was going to step back from the company he has steered since 1980 – well, step back a little bit.
"As I am now in my 73rd year and blessed with some of those unwanted encumbrances of age," he said, "it is clearly time for me to take a non-executive role. Happily, the support of an established and strong operations board makes this viable, in conjunction with the active search for a strong finance director, which we have commenced." ®