Advantage Solutions today reported first-quarter revenues of $906 million, up 1% over the same period a year ago excluding divestitures, foreign exchange and pass-through costs, buoyed by growth in its Experiential Services division.

Company executives said its first-quarter results met expectations despite soft market conditions and higher-than-expected costs and investments. Nonetheless, the company reaffirmed guidance for the full year, with revenues and adjusted earnings before income taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) projected to grow low single digits.

Advantage, a leading business solutions provider to consumer goods manufacturers and retailers, booked first-quarter operating income of $31.3 million and adjusted EBITDA of $78.8 million, a 14.5% decline from the same quarter a year ago.

The company also said it reduced debt in the quarter by $51 million and repurchased $11.7 million of its outstanding shares.

“I applaud our team for delivering financial results that were in line with our plan despite soft market conditions, higher-than-expected costs and planned investments to enhance our capabilities,” said Advantage Solutions CEO Dave Peacock. “We remain on track to achieve our financial objectives in 2024.”

The quarter also marked the first time Advantage reported results under its new business segments: Branded Services, Experiential Services and Retailer Services. The simplified and interconnected structure is designed to enable more seamless execution and increased precision on behalf of the company’s clients.

The integrated operating model and new reporting structure are among several actions the company has taken over recent quarters to simplify its business and enhance its capabilities to “better serve our CPG firms and retailers who rely on us every day to win in the market,” Peacock said, in a call with investors.

He said Advantage views 2024 as a “year of investment” to transform the company into “a future-focused, insights-driven, strategic provider” with “high-touch, high-tech and high-value” capabilities intended to improve its clients’ return on investment.

Those investments lean heavily into technology and talent. Among them:

  • As part of Advantage’s new relationship with Genpact, Advantage is using generative AI to deliver new solutions with greater speed and accuracy within order-to-cash and back-office administration functions for 500 of its clients and counting.
  • Advantage said it’s investing in establishing an AI Core Competency Center that aims to weave AI into areas of the business where it can get the most benefits, including applications that serve customers and those that serve internal needs.
  • The company also said it recently entered into an agreement with a retail technology company that specializes in image recognition to provide real-time inventory tracking at retail. Advantage and the other firm are co-developing solutions that allow for faster, smarter decisions about what’s happening on shelf.
  • Advantage also is working on enhancing its data visualization tools, incorporating more than 600 million points of proprietary data to build detailed analytical dashboards capable of producing real-time insights on performance by category, region and store for its clients. Peacock said the company soon will be able to access within seconds data that previously took days or weeks in the past to process.

“With more leading-edge commercial capabilities and an integrated operating model, we are confident Advantage will continue to lead as a strategic provider of choice to deliver the speed and precision required to convert more shoppers into buyers,” Peacock said.