George Weston Limited fuels Canadians through those long winters. About 95% of the company's sales come from its majority-owned Loblaw Companies Limited, Canada's largest retailer with more than 2,400 grocery stores, markets, and drug stores across the country. Its locations (both corporate-owned and franchised) operate under such banners as Loblaws, Provigo, Zehrs, Shoppers Drug Mart, Extra Foods, and Maxi. Loblaw Companies also provides banking and other financial services through PC Financial. In addition, George Weston owns Weston Foods, with operations in Canada and the US, which makes freshly baked goods, frozen dough, biscuits, and other bakery products. (Its Interbake Foods division is a major supplier of Girl Scout cookies in the US.)
George Weston operates through two operating segments: Loblaw and Weston Foods.
The Loblaw operating segment accounts for about 95% of company revenue and includes grocery and drug store chains, as well as financial services through PC Financial and real estate development through Choice Properties. Its 20-plus retail banners include Loblaws, Zehrs, Provigo, Fortinos, CityMarket, T&T, Shoppers Drug Mart, Maxi, and Extra Foods.
Weston Foods is a leading food manufacturer in North America, known for fresh and frozen bakery items (breads, rolls, pies, cakes, cookies, crackers). Operations include Ready Bake Foods and Colonial Cookies in Canada and Interbake Foods and Norse Dairy Systems in the US. This segment accounts for around 5% of George Weston's revenue.
In late 2018 Loblaw spun off its stake in Canadian diversified REIT Choice Properties to George Weston. It will become a third operating segment.
Based in Toronto, George Weston operates across Canada and generates more than 95% of its revenue there. It has limited operations in the US through Weston Foods.
Sales and Marketing
George Weston serves retail customers through some 2,400 grocery stores, markets, and drug stores across Canada. Its Weston Foods segment serves retail and wholesale customers.
Following a strong jump in 2014 (some 30%) after the acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart, George Weston's revenue has grown steadily since. In a slightly different story, net income plummeted in 2014 (again, because of the Shoppers Drug Mart purchase), but has risen dramatically since.
In 2017 the company reported revenue of C$48.3 billion, up less than 1%. The growth was powered completely by retail sales in the Loblaw segment. The Weston Foods segment saw a slight decline as a result of foreign currency translation.
Net income that year was C$759 million, up nearly 40% from 2016 primarily because of lower net interest expense and other financing charges.
Cash at the end of fiscal 2018 was C$2 billion, an increase of C$474 million from the prior year. Cash from operations contributed C$3.4 billion to the coffers, while investing activities used C$1.1 billion, mainly for capital expenditures. Financing activities used another nearly C$1.9 billion for interest and long-term debt paid as well as company stock purchases.
As is the case with many retailers, grocery and otherwise, George Weston's Loblaw business is focused on e-commerce and digital retailing. At the same time the company wants to ensure its store portfolio continues to serve the needs of all shoppers with traditional, specialty, and discount locations, as well as connected health and financial offerings (through its pharmacy network and PC Financial services, respectively). In late 2018 Loblaw spun off its stake in Choice Properties REIT to George Weston. The move allows Loblaw to focus on its core retailing operations while giving George Weston a strong third operational segment.
Currently, however, the bigger strategic focus appears to be on the smaller Weston Foods division, which George Weston wants to make into a leading North American bakery. The company is investing in the segment's supply chain, introducing a new go-to-market strategy, and working to strengthen existing brands and innovate with new ones. Weston Foods is struggling with declining sales as it rationalizes its product portfolio as part of its strategic transformation.
A baker's apprentice, George Weston began delivering bread in Toronto with a single horse in 1882. He added the Model Bakery in 1896 and began making cookies and biscuits in 1908.
Upon George's death in 1924, his son Garfield gained control of the company and took it public as George Weston Limited in 1928.
During the 1940s the company made a number of acquisitions, including papermaker E.B. Eddy (1943; sold 1998 to papermaker Domtar, giving it a 20% stake in Domtar), Southern Biscuit (1944), Western Grocers (1944, its first distribution company), and William Neilson (1948, chocolate and dairy products).
In 1953 it acquired a controlling interest in Loblaw Groceterias, Canada's largest grocery chain. George Weston continued its acquisitions during the 1950s and 1960s, adding grocer National Tea and diversifying into packaging (Somerville Industries, 1957) and fisheries (British Columbia Packers, 1962; Conners Bros., 1967).
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