BIRKENHEAD Christmas hampers to financial products group Park saw half year revenues rise and pre-tax losses narrow, in the six months to September 30.
Customer billings jumped from £48.58m to £54.61m while losses fell from £4.4m to £4.1m.
Park is a seasonal business with the bulk of profits made in the second period.
Also, due to the nature of its products, billings are higher than turnover, which came in at £47m compared with £46m last year.
It reflects the fact that its core hamper product is not distributed or invoiced until the second half, and revenues from its successful flexecash pre-paid card are not realised until values are redeemed.
Chief executive Chris Houghton explained: “Billings is a measure of activity.”
Other financial elements were also strong, with cash held in trust at the period end up from £119.5m to £132.6m and total cash balances peaking at £170m, compared with £152m in November.
The board’s confidence in the group is reflected in a 4.8% increase in interim dividend for shareholders to 0.55p per share.
Executive chairman Peter Johnson said today: “The strong performance of the first half is being maintained across the company with orders well ahead of the equivalent period last year.
“The combination of technological advances and marketing initiatives, together with the bedrock of our traditional business, gives us real confidence in the continued growth of Park.”
The consumer business of flexecash and vouchers in Park’s UK and Irish markets experienced a good first half with billings rising by 24.1% to £8.5m and revenues ahead by a similar percentage level at £8.3m.
The second half is always stronger as customer orders for vouchers, hampers or other gift products purchased through a 45 week instalment are despatched, with everything delivered in time for Christmas.
Park also said the value loaded on to its flexecash cards this year is 140% ahead of the same time last year and the total value loaded since launch is more than £140m.
Mr Houghton said hampers only represent 5% of total group turnover, which reflects the margins from the group’s other savings products such as pre-paid cards and vouchers which customers spend on the high street: “That business has been growing each year,” he said.
“We see that continuing and demand is good.”
He said it is the sensible thing to do in the current economic climate: “It gives you money for Christmas if you haven’t got access to cash in the bank or credit.”
He added: “Christmas has now been put to bed and next Christmas is coming along well.”.
He said full year profits will be ahead of last year’s: “The consensus is for about £9m and we are happy with that.”
And he added: “Since last year we have created 19 new jobs in Birkenhead, which is testimony to the way the business is going.”