THE chairman of the group that operates the Lifestyle Sports retail chain said that all three group businesses are taking the necessary action to return the group to profitability.
Victor J Stafford of Stafford Holdings made the comment as new accounts show that pre-tax losses at Stafford Holdings and subsidiaries increased by 70pc last year to €1.9m.
Accounts just filed with the Companies Office show that losses increased at the group despite a €10m jump in sales to €337.3m in the 12 months to the end of last September.
The numbers employed by the fourth-generation privately-owned group last year decreased from 892 to 823.
The Wexford-based group purchased Lifestyle Sports for €60m in 2005.
Mr Stafford said in a statement that last year "was another challenging year for the group across its three core businesses, Lifestyle Sports, Campus Oil and Stafford Fuels, but I am pleased to report that some excellent progress has been made in terms of returning Lifestyle Sports to being earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation positive and through the continued relentless cost reduction being achieved both in Lifestyle Sports and Campus Oil".
Mr Stafford added that "taking into account the difficult trading conditions being encountered by all three core businesses as a result of the economic and financial crisis, I believe that the results for full year 2011 represent good progress against this backdrop".
On the performance of the 62-store strong Lifestyle Sports last year, Mr Stafford said: "Notwithstanding a modest decline in turnover, Lifestyle Sports generated a substantial increase in EBITDA to return to positive EBITDA as a result of an improvement in gross margins and extensive cost reductions, including a significant number of store closures."
Mr Stafford reported that Campus Oil "performed satisfactorily, where again reductions in both volumes and gross margins were offset to a material extent by substantial cost savings".
The returns also confirm that the group has refinanced all of its banking facilities with Bank of Ireland and that they now include lending facilities amounting to €49.8m, comprising a term loan of €29.3m and working capital facilities of €20.5m.