Park Group benefits from an increase in customers saving up for Christmas

More customers have been putting their money away ahead of Christmas this year, helping boost the UK’s leading gift voucher firm.

Park Group, which offers Christmas vouchers, hampers and other gift products in a 45-week instalment plan, said orders had edged up 5 per cent, with the group gaining 8,000 new customers, taking its total to 423,000.

It said customers were also spending more, with the average order increasing by £14 to £430 this year.

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Chief executive Chris Houghton said tough times were encouraging customers to save and that Park was providing them with a “disciplined approach”.

The Birkenhead-based group, which sells vouchers for high street names including Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser, Argos and Debenhams, narrowed its pre-tax losses by 6 per cent to £4.1m in the six months to September 30. With more than three quarters of revenues coming in the second half, it is usually loss-making in its interim results.

Chairman Peter Johnson said since the end of September the strong first half performance was being maintained, with orders well ahead of the equivalent period last year.

The firm also said the popularity of its pre-paid card had helped it to move into new markets.

Its Flexecash initiative where corporate customers or consumers can load money on to a gift card and choose where it can be spent, has helped it to win work in new sectors.

Mr Johnson said the card continued to have a “transformational” effect on Park’s business.

Park said its corporate business had delivered another strong performance with billings in the period rising 10.5 per cent to £46.2m.

Park’s online business also saw revenues rise 24.2 per cent to £4.6m in the period as customers logged on from as far away as Australia to buy vouchers and cards. Park said the web-based gift voucher retailer was also attracting corporate customers.

The Flexecash reward scheme was launched in 2010 and is now far bigger than the group’s original hamper product, launched with the company in 1967.