Annual reports are written with the purpose to inform the shareholders about the situation in the company, about its achievements and the future purposes. Clatworthy and Jones (2003) state that it is highly important to provide both good and bad news in the report, focusing more on bad news and the ideas how to change the situation. Trevor Bentley (2003) is sure that the effective communication, including reports, “takes place when the transmitter constructs and delivers a message in such a way that the recipient gets and understands the message, and responds in exactly the way the transmitter intended” (p. 79). To provide an effective annual report, the company should understand the needs of the shareholders and the information they require. Being a baking company, Greggs PLC tries to show that their family business spreads love and care to all people. “Our values are our commitment to the way we will treat each other. We aspire to be a company that everyone is proud to shop with, work for and do business with. Our values apply to all our stakeholders, including our customers, our people, our shareholders and our suppliers” (Greggs PLC 2011, n. p.) is a phrase which shows the main intentions of the company. To check whether the company manages to communicate with shareholders effectively, let us consider the company annual reports.
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The research provided by Courtis (2004) proves that colours play great role in the information perception and its interpretation. Having considered the chairman’s statement in different reports, it is possible to state that 2008 annual report is significant due to the absence of coloured headings. The information seems to be unstructured and this prevents the reader from appropriate perception of the information. All the chairman’s statements in annual reports of different years are provided in back, except for the 2009 annual report where the text is presented in terracotta colour gamma with bold font. That makes the reader pay attention to this statement.
Neither of chairman’s statements in the 2005-2009 annual reports contains graphs. At the same time the photos of the chairman support each of the chairman’s statement.
Dwelling upon the language of the chairman’s statements in different years, it is possible to mention that all the reports are short, except for 2005 and 2008 chairman’s statements. The longer statements offer more economic terms and notions overburden them. The 2006 chairman’s statement contains a grammatical error which is inadmissible in such type of writing. Writing “Greggs have been very fortunate to have two such excellent people giving such long-term commitment to the very successful building of our business” (A Slice of Our Life 2005, p. 5), the author of the text makes a grammar mistake which may influence the company reputation and the chairman’s one as an appropriate person to run the business.
Chief Executive Report
Comparing the chief executive reports which are considered in 2008 and 2009 years only, it is possible to state that the colours play vital role there. 2009 chief executive report, as well as the chairman’s statement is performed in terracotta colour gamma and in bold. 2008 chief executive report is written in black with the coloured headings. The coloured headings help structure the information as the report is rather lengthy.
There are no graphs in chief executive reports.
The information is written in simple English, still, the 2008 chief executive report includes some financial terms. The information is understandable but the sentences in 2009 chief executive report are too long, e.g. “in the coming year we will be doubling the number of shops we refurbish and also undertaking the previously announced investment in our supply chain to maximise the many opportunities we have identified for expansion across the UK” (The Home of Fresh Baking 2009). Too lengthy sentences influence the text readability.
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The colour of other reports varies depending on the information which is going to be presented. Thus, the headings are usually highlighted with another colour through the text. The colourfulness of the reports is supported with the pictures. It is important to state that the number and main idea of the images change from one report to another through the years. The images in the 2005 annual report represent the company board of directors and the plants to show that the company cares about quality and to show those who are responsible for all this. The 2006 annual report is more directed at the company spread. The images show new shops which have been opened to make the shareholders aware of the company development and expansion. Paying attention to the annual report of 2007, the company has understood that images play vital role in the report and has provided more of them, but they are mostly black and white. 2008 report contains the images of the company products along with the places where the products are sold. The pictures of the company products are presented almost at every page of the 2009 annual report. This makes the report bright and attractive.
According to Goo (1994), shareholders need coherent narrative report which includes “figures of the company’s performance and prospects” (p. 9). There are a lot of different tables which may be supported with graphs to understand the company success. The board of directors fails to do it, inserting only tables with numbers and failing to provide the visual reflection of the information. Thus, it may be concluded that the reports lack graphs which are aimed at reflecting the numerical information mentioned in the text and offered in the form of tables. Tables are important as they make the perception of the numerical information better than in the text performance.
The language cannot be called simple as it is overburden with financial terms, still, it is easily read and may be understood. Still, there are some specific notes about 2008 annual report. Having too small size of the font, most sentences are too long and seem to be awkward for the reader. For example, “One half of the remaining directors, being those who have been in office longer since last re-election, and any other director who has not been elected or re-elected of the two preceding AGMs, must seek re-election at each AGM” (Respected. Valued. Trusted 2008, p. 30).
Thus, it may be concluded that the company pays much attention to the effective communication in the reports. The change of font size and the experiments with the font colours show that the company wants to stress some specific information, to make the shareholders perceive it better. It is impossible to imagine reports which fail to use impression management strategy (Stanton, Stanton & Pires 2004). Greggs PLC is not an exception. Trying to impress the audience (shareholders), the board of directors has changed the main focus of the reports to show what is achieved with the highest results. First, the reports became more colourful, second, the font size became crucial as the board of directors tried to pay shareholders’ attention to some specific moments, third, the tables became more structured as well as the information, fourth, the number of graphs increased but still there are few of them, and fifth, the images became more numerous, that adds to the impressiveness and informative nature of the Greggs PLC’s reports.
A Slice of Our Life 2005, Annual Report and Accounts, Greggs PLC, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Annual Report 2006, Annual Report and Accounts, Greggs PLC, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Annual Report 2007, Annual Report and Accounts, Greggs PLC, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Bentley, T 2003, Report writing in business: the effective communication of information, Elsevier, Oxford.
Clatworthy, M & Jones, MJ 2003, ‘Financial reporting of good news and bad news: evidence from accounting narratives’, Accounting & Business Research, vol. 33, iss. 3, pp. 171-185.
Courtis, JK 2004, ‘Colour as visual rhetoric in financial reporting’, Accounting Forum, vol. 28, pp. 265-281.
Goo, SH 1994, Minority Shareholders’ Protection, Routledge, Oxford.
Greggs PLC 2011, Our values, Greggs PLC, Web.
Respected. Valued. Trusted 2008, Annual Report and Accounts, Greggs PLC, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Stanton, P, Stanton, J & Pires, G 2004, ‘Impressions of an annual report: an experimental study’, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 57-69.
The Home of Fresh Baking 2009, Annual Report and Accounts, Greggs PLC, Newcastle upon Tyne.
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