Johnson Group holds its ground

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JOHNSON GROUP, Britain's biggest dry cleaner, maintained pre-tax profits steady at pounds 15.8m ( pounds 16m) for 1992 despite what it described as depressed markets.

Operating profits were almost pounds 1.3m lower, but the fall was ameliorated by a reduced interest charge.

Revenue from continuing businesses was maintained, but overall turnover fell 2.4 per cent because of the sale of Apparelmaster Design at the end of 1991.

Terry Greer, chairman, said the company's dry cleaning business had been particularly adversely hit, with customers putting off visits to the shops.

'Because of the relatively high level of fixed costs, a small drop in volume affects profitability immediately,' he said.

But he added that Johnson's textile rental business, which hires out workwear, had performed more robustly.

'We have managed to produce a small increase in profit before property despite the severity of the recession in both the UK and the US,' he said.

Johnson, which is based in Bootle, Merseyside, has more than 730 dry cleaning outlets in the UK. In the US there are 350 directly-owned outlets and a further 150 franchised shops.

The total dividend is maintained at 25.7p on earnings per share of 53.1p (50.3p). Johnson shares rose 15p to 820p.