Papa Murphy’s sales drop 5 percent in 2016

Company optimistic about national ads, online ordering system

By Troy Brynelson, Columbian staff writer

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Papa Murphy’s Holdings, the Vancouver-based parent of the take-and-bake pizza chain, announced this week sales dropped an estimated 5.2 percent in 2016 and 7.8 percent in its fiscal fourth quarter.

“While we are disappointed that our fourth quarter sales remained under pressure, we continue to execute long-term strategic initiatives,” said board chair and interim CEO Jean Birch in a statement. The figures are preliminary and unaudited.

The drop continues a bumpy stretch for the pizza purveyor. Its shares, which are traded on the Nasdaq exchange, dropped 60 percent over the year and sales declined nearly 6 percent in third quarter, prompting then-CEO Ken Calwell to call that quarter “disappointing.” Calwell then resigned at the end of December. Company chairman John Barr had resigned earlier in the year.

But Papa Murphy’s said it expects to right the ship with a first-ever national ad campaign, a new online ordering system and the refranchising of company-owned stores.

“While the environment remains competitive, we believe these initiatives, along with our return to traditional marketing messaging and a focus on new product innovation, will drive positive results in the future,” said Birch, who assumed the chairman spot after Barr.

Revenues are estimated to top $126.9 million for the year and $35.5 million for the quarter. Net debt fell $4.8 million from third to fourth quarter.

The company, headquartered near Vancouver Mall, opened 104 new stores in the year, bringing its total to more than 1,575 locations in the United States, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.