C.I. Traders Limited

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C.I. Traders Limited

Traders House
1-3 L'Avenue Le Bas
United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 01534 508200
Fax: +44 01534 768858
Web site: http://www.citraders.com

Public Company
Incorporated: 2002
Employees: 3,458
Sales: £268.9 million ($430 million) (2003)
Stock Exchanges: London (AIM)
Ticker Symbol: CIT
NAIC: 312120 Breweries; 452111 Department Stores (Except Discount Department Stores; 311811 Retail Bakeries; 312130 Wineries; 312229 Other Tobacco Product Manufacturing; 424470 Meat and Meat Product Merchant Wholesalers; 424810 Beer and Ale Merchant Wholesalers; 424820 Wine and Distilled Alcoholic Beverage Merchant Wholesalers; 424940 Tobacco and Tobacco Product Merchant Wholesalers; 441110 New Car Dealers; 452910 Warehouse Clubs and Superstores; 721110 Hotels (Except Casino Hotels) and Motels

C.I. Traders Limited, formed by the merger of Ann Street Group and Le Riche Group in 2002, is the largest company on the Channel Islands. The diversified group concentrates on four primary areas: Retail, Property, Food Services, and Hospitality. The company also operates a consumer finance business in support of its retail operations. Retail is the group's largest division, and stems from the Le Riche side of the business. C.I. Traders operates more than 40 grocery stores and related retail stores under the names Checkers, Le Riche's Stampers, Checkers Xpress, Le Riche Forecourts, and Island Shopper, making the group the leading retailer in Jersey, Guernsey, and Alderney. The company's retail holdings include two Checkers superstores, with the largest offering 52,000 square feet of sales space. In addition, the company operates two franchised Marks & Spencers stores in Guernsey and Jersey. While Retail attracts the Islands' consumers, the company's Food Services division meets the distribution needs of Channel Islands restaurants, hotels, bars, and related businesses, providing chilled and frozen food products through Trade Saver and Martin O'Meara, butcher meats through Russell Meats, and bakery and other goods through C.I. Bakeries and Warry's. Many of the Food Service Division's professional customers are, in fact, members of the C.I. Traders group, which operates more than 90 bars and pubs throughout the Channel Islands, as well as 13 restaurants under the Blubeckers and Edwinns names in the United Kingdom. The company also maintains the Ann Street Brewery operations, and manufactures and distributes soft drinks and other beverages under license. In addition, the company owns L'Abeille, the leading producer of private-label soft drinks for the French market. The company's Property Division is chiefly responsible for managing the Channel Islands real estate portfolio. With its dominant position on the Channel Islands, C.I. Traders has expressed interest in expanding further into England. C.I. Traders is led by Chairman Tom Scott and Chief Executive Michael Johnson. With annual sales of £269 million ($430 million), it is the third largest company listed on the London Stock Exchange's AIM index.

Island Grocer Origins in the 19th Century

C.I. Traders represented the coming together of two longstanding and complementary forces in the Channel Islands' business sector. The oldest of the two was the Le Riche Group, which originated as a grocery shop founded by the Le Riche family in 1818. Located in the Jersey capital town of St. Helier, the Le Riche grocery business grew into the most prominent retailer on the Channel Islands. In 1897, the business was incorporated formally as Le Riche's Stores Limited.

Le Riche expanded by opening new store locations across Jersey, Guernsey, and Alderney. Yet the company's retailing operations, and the necessity of bringing goods onshore from the English mainland, led it to extend its operations to include grocery and beverage wholesale services. The company, given the Channel Islands' location between France and England, also became one of the islands' most important wine shippers, an activity begun in the group's early years. The company also later became involved in new and used automobile sales, and operated its own service stations.

By the late 1950s, Le Riche was one of the top two retailers on the Channel Islands. In 1960, the company claimed the top spot through its takeover of rival Orviss Ltd. That company had also been one of the oldest and largest grocers on the island. At mid-decade, Le Riche prepared to expand again, this time acquiring the franchise to operate Marks & Spencer stores on the Channel Islands. The first of these opened in 1967 in Jersey, but was later relocated to St. Helier's King Street in 1978.

While the Le Riche's grocery chain itself extended to six storestwo each on Jersey, Guernsey, and Alderneythe company began developing new retail formats in the 1980s. The first of these was launched under the name of Stampers. The small-scale, community convenience format catered not only to the islands' residents, but also to the growing numbers of tourists and day trippers. Featuring extended opening hours, on a seven days per week schedule, the Stampers format continued to grow into the 1990s, developing into a 12-store chain, including ten stores on Jersey and two on Guernsey.

Le Riche continued expanding in the 1990s. In 1991, the company moved into the wholesale bakery sector with its acquisition of C.I. Bakery Ltd., the islands' largest commercial baker, based in Jersey. On the retail front, Le Riche responded to the growing trend toward supermarket superstores in the United Kingdom and elsewhere by launching its own superstore format. Called Checkers, the company's first superstore was established in Jersey in 1993.

The company launched another successful retail formula at mid-decade, The Wine Warehouse. With an offer of guaranteed low prices, backed by a promotional campaign featuring a "gruff" Frenchman, Gaston Duplonk, Wine Warehouse opened in St. Martin's Guernsey. The success of the first store led the company to roll out two more self-standing stores, in New Era and Quennevais in Jersey, and as a boutique shop with the soon-to-début Guernsey Checkers.

After selling off its money-losing automotive business in 1999, Le Riche turned its attention to solidifying its hold on the Channel Islands' retail market, then under threat from the entry of U.K. supermarket giant Safeway and the plans to open a superstore by the Channel Islands Co-op retail group. The company began construction on a new Checkers superstore, which opened in Guernsey in 2001. At 52,000 square feet, the new store easily became the Channel Islands' largest. At the same time, the company began a renovation of the smaller Jerseybased Checkers.

Le Riche, which had changed its name to Le Riche Group in 1998, also had expanded its department store operation. In 2001, the company opened its second Marks & Spencer store, again under franchise, in Centre Point, St. Brelaide.

Merging for the New Century

Given the relatively small population of the Channel Islandswhich stood at barely more than 87,000 at the end of the 20th centurya merger between Le Riche and the Ann Street Group, another leading Channel Islands business group, had been spoken about for years, with no result.

Ann Street had been founded as a brewery on St. Helier's Ann Street in 1905. The company had brewed ale originally, then switched to other beer types in the 1950s. At that time, the company had branched out into other beverage types, acquiring the license to manufacture and distribute Coca-Cola on the Channel Islands in 1952. In 1958, the company acquired the distribution license for Bollinger champagne for the Islands as well.

Key Dates:

First Le Riche grocery shop opens in Jersey and begins business as a wine shipper as well.
Le Riche incorporates as Le Riche's Stores Limited.
The Ann Street Brewery is founded.
Ann Street extends into soft drinks with a Coca-Cola franchise for the Channel Islands.
Ann Street adds a distribution license for Bollinger champagne.
Le Riche takes over another prominent Channel Islands retailer, Orviss.
Le Riche acquires a Marks & Spencer franchise and opens the first store in Jersey.
Ian Steven becomes head of the Ann Street Brewery and leads its expansion as the Channel Islands' leading brewery and pubs group.
Le Riche debuts the Stampers convenience store format.
Le Riche acquires C.I. Bakers, the leading commercial baker in Jersey.
Le Riche opens the first Checkers superstore in Jersey.
Le Riche débuts The Wine Warehouse retail format.
Le Riche acquires full control of Russell Meats.
Le Riche sells its automotive sales operation.
Ann Street acquires the Blubeckers restaurant group in southern England.
Le Riche opens a second Marks & Spencer store, acquires Warry's commercial baker, and opens a Checkers superstoreall in Guernsey.
Le Riche acquires Channel Rentals, Channel Publications, and TABS from ComProp Ltd.; Le Riche and Ann Street merge under privately held C.I. Traders, which then lists on the AIM market.
C.I. sells off the mainland England pubs portfolio in order to focus on retail growth.

Ann Street remained a modest-sized business into the early 1970s. A turning point for the group came in 1971, when Ian Steven took over as the company's lead. Under Steven, Ann Street began developing its pub estate holdings, which grew to more than 100 across the Channel Islands. The company also entered the French market, acquiring L'Abeille, that country's leading supplier of private-label soft drinks for the French supermarket sector. Into the 1990s, Ann Street, which, like Le Riche, was listed on the London Stock Exchange's Main Board, began seeking an extension onto the English mainland, building up a pub estate in southern England. In 2000, the company moved into England with the acquisition of the Brubeckers restaurant chain.

This development came in part because of a steady decline in the tourism market on the Channel Islands, caused primarily by the opening of the tunnel across the English Channel connecting England to the European continent in the 1990s. The changing economic climate on the Islands encouraged both Ann Street and Le Riche to seek a means of increasing their scale at the end of the 20th century.

Le Riche launched an acquisition drive, starting with the purchase of full control of Russell Meats, a leading supplier of butchers meats on the Islands in 1998. In 2001, the company struck again, buying up LS Warry & Sons, the only commercial baker on Guernsey, cementing Le Riche's position as the leading commercial baker in the Channel Islands. In 2003, Le Riche paid Comprop Ltd. £1.75 million to acquire three more businesses, Channel Rentals, which provided videotape and DVD, as well as vending machine rentals on the islands; Channel Publications, which published two free Guernsey-based papers, Finder and Home Finder, and Channel Islands maps under the Perry's brand; and Trade Advisory Business Service, which was brought under Le Riche's finance department.

Ann Street in the meantime had come under the leadership of Tom Scott, an English expatriate who had relocated to the island to escape British taxes in the mid-1980s. Scott soon grew into a leading figure on the Channel Islands business scene, setting up a new business, C.I. Traders, which provided automotive financing, and acquiring a stake in Ann Street through another company. That shareholding gave Scott the executive chairman seat in the company.

In 2002, Scott led a three-way merger among Ann Street, Le Riche, and his own company, bringing the brewer and pub owner under the C.I. Traders banner. The newly enlarged company then transferred its listing to the London exchange's AIM market, where it became one of that market's top five companies. Under C.I. Traders, the company now shifted its emphasis onto its retail portfolio, selling off its mainland pub estate in order to step up its retail investments. Among the company's targets was an extension of its retail holdings into Francethe company reportedly began seeking a franchise to open Marks & Spencer stores in that country, which the British group had exited nearly two years before. C.I. Traders hoped to expand beyond its dominance of the Channel Islands' business sector and become a mainland force in the new century.

Principal Subsidiaries

Ann Street Group Ltd.; C.I. Bakery; G. Orang & Co.; L'Abeille SA (France); Le Riche Group Ltd.; LR Trading; Russell Meats; Trade Saver Foods; Warry's Bakery.

Principal Competitors

Safeway Plc; Channel Islands Co-op.

Further Reading

Ann Street Brewery Co. Ltd. Jersey: The History, Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Martlet Publishing Company, 1993.

Blackwell, David, "C.I. Traders Has Expectations of Merger Benefits," Financial Times, April 17, 2003, p. 22.

Conway, Edmund, "C.I. Pulls Out of Eldridge Pope Deal," Daily Telegraph, September 18, 2003.

"Le Riche Gains Scale Through Merger," Grocer, July 13, 2002.

"Le Riche Trialing Express Format," Grocer, May 31, 2003.

"Le Riche's Riche Marques to Buy Rental, Publication, Credit Ops of Comprop," AFX UK, March 28, 2002.

Renault, Kenneth C., Le Riches Story 175 Years of Progress, Chichester, Sussex: Phillimore & Co. Ltd., 1993.

M.L. Cohen