27 June 2024

AO World boss calls on next government to tap into ‘great minds’ in business

27 June 2024

The boss of online electricals retailer AO World has called on the next government to tap into the “tsunami of good will” among business leaders and engage with firms to help shape policies.

John Roberts, founder and chief executive of AO World, told the PA news agency that the party that wins the General Election on July 4 should gather business bosses from across the UK and empower them to help on a raft of issues, such as business rate reforms and the apprenticeship levy.

He has been a vocal critic of the apprenticeship levy, claiming it has “failed” and that its complexity has not delivered on the aim to boost the number of school leavers taking on apprenticeships.

He said the next government needs to talk to businesses about how to make the levy fit for purpose, and also to use the experience of those in the sector on issues and policies.

There's some great minds in business across the UK that can help the Government

He told PA: “There’s a tsunami of good will of people who want to help make a difference.”

He said he has spoken to many chief executives who would be willing to help the next government.

“Let’s get us all in a room and empower business leaders to help,” he said.

“There’s some great minds in business across the UK that can help the government.”

His comments came as AO World said it was targeting double-digit sales growth in the financial year ahead after seeing annual profits nearly treble.

The group reported a 186% surge in underlying pre-tax profits to £34.3 million for the year to March 31.

The result came in spite of a 9% drop in sales to £1.04 billion after actions to cut costs and strip out unprofitable sales affected revenues.

But this helped boost its bottom line, with the profit out-turn better than previously expected.

AO World said sales returned to growth in the final three months of the financial year, and Mr Roberts added that sales were “firmly” in growth in its first quarter so far.

Recent trading has been buoyed by surging demand for televisions due to the Euro 2024 football tournament, with sales up 54% year-on-year in June.

It also cheered sales of tumble driers over the winter months thanks to the wet weather.

AO World increased its profit guidance at the end of last year to between £28 million and £33 million.

The firm added that, despite “ongoing macro-economic challenges”, it remains confident of delivering double-digit sales growth in 2024-25 and seeing underlying pre-profits rise to between £36 million and £41 million.

Mr Roberts said the group is now a “much simpler, more efficient business”.

“Our focus now is on delivering profitable top-line growth with an ambition for double-digit revenue growth in 2024-25,” he said.

But the group said it had suffered amid a “particularly challenging year” for the mobile phone market, as consumer demand waned, leading the division to post losses over the year.

It hopes to turn the division around after buying the affordablemobiles.co.uk and buymobiles.net websites, to strengthen its position in the sector.

The boss of online electricals retailer AO World has called on the next government to tap into the “tsunami of good will” among business leaders and engage with firms to help shape policies. (AO World/PA)

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