Facebook drives £5m of sales and boosts profits at Birkenhead-based Park Group

Gift vouchers, Christmas savings and corporate incentives provider reports a 4.2% growth in pre-tax profits to £12.4m and announces CEO Chris Houghton is to retire. Tony McDonough reports

Facebook has helped Park Group generate £5m of sales in the past year

Social media is becoming an increasing driver of new sales at Wirral-based Park Group with £5m of new business coming from Facebook alone over the past year.

Stock market-listed Park, which employs around 260 people in Birkenhead, specialises in multi-retailer gift vouchers, Christmas savings and corporate incentives – as well as its traditional Christmas hampers offering.

In its full-year results for the 12 months to March 31 reveal a 4.2% growth in pre-tax profits to £12.4m.

Given its focus on Christmas savings and gift vouchers its business is highly seasonal and during the October to December peak period staff numbers can swell to around 350.

Customers pay small regular amounts throughout the year and receive their choice of vouchers, prepaid cards, gifts and hampers in time for Christmas.

It said today that orders for Christmas 2017 are ahead of where they were at the same point last year.

‘Fantastic year’

Chief executive Chris Houghton, who is to retire after 31 years at Park, told YBNews: “I think we have had a fantastic year.

“We have continued to invest in our systems and products. We have increased sales and billings and both revenues and profits are up.

“We have launched some great digital products that enable us to deliver rewards instantaneously not just in the UK, but worldwide.

“Our corporate clients have customers and staff abroad so we can deliver their rewards to them quickly.”

Dramatic shift

Mr Houghton took the helm of Park, founded by former Everton FC and Tranmere Rovers owner Peter Johnson, in 2004 and in the past nine years has overseen a dramatic technological shift.

More than 90% of the firm’s orders now come online compared with just 10% in 2008.

Mr Houghton added: “Many customers no longer want to speak to a sales assistant or call centre, but prefer to self-serve and manage the enquiry and order management process themselves, at a time of day or night which suits them.

Chris Houghton, chief executive of Park Group

“Customer interaction with Park has changed dramatically over the past decade. Previously, a consumer customer would perhaps see one of our television advertisements and respond by telephoning to request a brochure.

“Today, with the advances in digital connectivity, many prospective customers respond immediately to our television advertising by logging on to Park’s websites, selecting products and placing orders.”

And he talked about how social media is now a huge driver of new businesses, saying: “Facebook remains the most popular channel and we now have over 100,000 followers compared with 72,000 12 months ago.”

In the annual report, Park also talked about its commitment to the local community in Wirral.

The company is a founder patron of the Wirral Youth Zone, which opened in April 2017 and is known locally as ‘The Hive’, and provides a wide range of activities for young people aged between eight and 19.

Moving on

It is anticipated Mr Houghton will remain as chief executive for at least a year while a search for his successor continues.

And he is in no doubt the quality of the people at Park will ensure the growth of the company will continue.

He said: “It is time for me to move on – it comes to us all in the end. We are really moving into e-commerce in a big way and we have a fantastic team of people here, all from the local area.”

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