28 APRIL 1939, Page 50




THE annual general meeting of the Army and Navy Stores, Limited, was held on Wednesday, April z6th, on the company's premises, Howick Place, Westminster, S.W.

Brigadier-General Sir Frederick Gascoigne, K.C.V.O., C.M.G., D.S.O. (the chairman and managing director), said that last year he had warned shareholders that their new year had not commenced in a promising way, and he imagined they would not be surprised when he told them that conditions did not improve. The Sep- tember crisis had dealt a severe shock to trade, and a feeling of in- security had persisted in the minds of many.

Furthermore, the society, dependent to a large extent on the custom of those with more or less fixed incomes, was particularly sensitive to factors affecting those incomes, whether it was by way of increased income-tax or reduced dividends, or both. The conse- quent result was a drop in turnover, reflected in the reduced gross profit from the trading and miscellaneous accounts, which was down by £65,788; but it was gratifying to be able to say that owing to the economies they were able to effect during the year the net profit was down by only £47,378. Those economies had resulted from the regrouping of departments and offices, made possible by those structural alterations which they had already completed, and by other reorganisations which would have their full effect in due course and augured well for the days to come when trade revived.


The directors felt justified in recommending payment of a final dividend of iod. per share, which, with the interim dividend of 5d. paid last October, would make a total dividend of is. 3d. per share of 121 per cent.—namely, the same amount as last year, less the bonus.

Trade in India did not become easier as time went on, and as Indians went in more and more for trading themselves the com- petition ever got keener, but the company were holding their own and watching things closely. During his visit he had been able to approve certain measures for improving and bringing up to date their buildings in Bombay and Calcutta, and he had received many appreciative comments from the inhabitants at both places—and also New Delhi—as to the useful service provided by the stores.

The plans for the partial rebuilding and rearrangement of departments were being carried through according to time-table, and what he had referred to last year as the "biggest operation "- the rebuilding of Howick Place—would, they hoped, be finished before their Christmas trade began this year. The layout of the departments would be much more logical and convenient than before, and everyone, even those who had no bump of locality at all, would be able to find their way about with the greatest ease. Apart from the improved shopping facilities which those alterations would bring about, they would enable the company to handle the business in a more efficient and economical manner. They were already beginning to benefit in that respect from the alterations they had so far effected.

It was tempting in times such as they were passing through, when economy in household expenses was the cry, to try to meet reduced pockets by selling inferior goods, but they had steadfastly set themselves against that practice and had adhered to their tradition of quality above all things. Even if they lost some pounds in that way temporarily in sales, they would rather do that than lose their reputation for quality. The defaulting customer would come back to them again in due course, but the reputation might be gone for good.

Tim Ftrmaa As regarded the outlook for the coming year, who would be so bold as to prophesy? So much depended on the turn international affairs took. They could only hope for the clouds to disperse and for the sunshine to come, and, being an optimist, he continued to hope with some confidence that it would do so soon. If it did, their company would be ready to receive and cope with its full share of the resultant improved trade. If trade did not improve, shareholders would have the satisfaction of knowing that so far as lay in their power the Society had been placed in a sound and economic position.

The times in which they were living were not normal, and it would be unprofitable and a waste of shareholders' time for him to say much more. They did not know what problems they might be called upon to solve, and he could only ask them to rely on the directors to deal with them as they arose to the best of their ability.

No one could make merry over Budgets which had 5s. 6d. as a standard income-tax, but he could at least take heart of grace that on that occasion the Chancellor in his wisdom had made no increase to that particular source of revenue. Such an increase would have had a very disturbing effect on their trade.

Onerous as was the prevailing taxation, however, they had got to pay the price of peace, and he felt sure that they were all prepared and willing to shoulder the extra burdens to preserve their independence and be in a position to help towards the maintenance of the peace of the world.

The report was unanimously adopted.