SHAREHOLDERS' LETTER 49: BIC GROUP'S SHAREHOLDERS' LETTER OF MARCH 2020
In the face of continued volatile and challenging trading environments, our 2019 performance was softer than initially expected. While we saw pockets of growth and momentum in our markets, overall, our topline performance was disappointing. We started the year expecting to deliver a slight increase in organic Net Sales and finished with a decrease of 1.9%. Like many Consumer Packaged Good companies today, we’re operating in a tough trading environment, facing market‐driven challenges in numerous geographies. The strongest headwinds comes from a noticeable slowdown, and in some cases decline, in our three categories.
Despite these challenges, we had robust sell-out performance and grew or maintained market share in most geographies. In Stationery, we performed particularly well and gained market share in South Africa for the fifth consecutive year in a row, driven by a consistent and successful Back-to-School selling period. In Shaver, we outperformed the market in all our major geographies. We finished the year with a +1.9 points gain in the U.S, and we also grew share in Russia for the fourth consecutive year, thanks to our Flex Hybrid range. Finally, in Lighters, we continued to outperform both the Pocket and the Utility Lighter markets.
Although we had solid sell-out performance, 2019 sell-in was negatively impacted by various elements, including the decline in the U.S. Pocket Lighter market, Back-to-School sell-in and sell-out in both the U.S. and Mexico, where delivery of our sales objectives fell below expectations. We also underperformed in India, as we continued to struggle in a fragmented and complex route-to-market.
While it was a challenging year, I’m proud that our teams remained focused on strong operational execution. We demonstrated our ability to seize new growth opportunities in fast-growing regions with the successful integration of Haco Industries in Kenya, and the acquisition of Nigeria’s number #1 stationery manufacturer, Lucky Pens. These moves will augment and strengthen our presence in Africa, reinforcing our competitive positions in this future growth region.
I am convinced that our categories have solid potential that can be leveraged by becoming more agile, innovative, and consumer-centric. While executing our “BIC 2022 - Invent the Future” transformation plan, we will continue to evolve our business. Combined with our solid business foundation, this plan will enable BIC to deliver long-term profitable growth and create sustainable value for all our stakeholders.
Gonzalve Bich, Chief Executive Officer