The Irish Times Business Person of the Month: Gavin Slark

Builder supplier Grafton reports 68% jump in operating profits for 2021

Gavin Slark

Grafton Group chief executive Gavin Slark has been chosen as The Irish Times Business Person of the Month for February, an award run in association with Bank of Ireland.

The builders merchants and DIY retailing group last month reported a landmark 68 per cent jump in operating profits for 2021. The figure was ahead of guidance issued by the company in January, which was itself an upgrade from forecasts in November.

The result was driven by record contributions from its Woodie’s DIY retail unit in the Republic and its Selco builders supplies business in the UK.

Mr Slark, who has led the group for close to 11 years, has steered it comfortably through the tumult of the Covid pandemic, helped in part by the classifying of Woodie’s as essential retail which allowed it to remain open during lockdowns.

Woodie’s, which makes up 13 per cent of group revenue, saw sales jump 19.4 per cent to £282.8 million (€339.6 million) while its operating profit soared 27.2 per cent to £50.9 million.

He has also overseen a first move into the Scandinavian market last year with the €200 million acquisition of Finnish workwear and protective equipment group, IKH.

And in a year when continuing operations all delivered strong double-digit profit growth, he also offloaded its long underperforming British traditional merchanting business for around €620 million.

Slark says trading this year “has been encouraging” so far and the outlook for 2022 is positive, supported by strong housing and repair, maintenance and improvement markets.