Hays Travel finds trading a breeze as operating profit rises to £3m

The UK's largest independent travel agent saw turnover rise to £253m in 2014 on the back of strong sales and acquisitions

John Hays of Hays Travel
John Hays of Hays Travel

Holiday providers Hays Travel grew operating profit by £2.8m in 2014 on the back of strong like-for-like sales growth and two key acquisitions.

The Sunderland-headquartered firm bought the 60-branch Bath Travel in 2013 and also acquired a 40% stake in Just Go Travel Limited.

Speaking to The Journal following the group’s latest set of accounts, chairman John Hays said turnover of £253m, up from £172.7m, was driven by a strong sales performance and not just the contribution of the new businesses.

The successful travel entrepreneur is now planning to open new North East stores in the near future with four leases in undisclosed locations in the pipeline.

Accounts filed at Companies House show operating profits at increased from £171,710 to just more than £3m in the year to the end of October 2014.

Mr Hays said: “We are very pleased with the acquisitions, but we’ve also have very strong like-for-like growth across the year, which is the most encouraging part.

“Trading in the first four months of this year has been similarly positive, with yet more chunky like-for-like figures. A big part of this is down to the success of our own products, including our tour operation and long haul options which have been popular among customers.

“As I’ve said before the Hays story is an interesting one given the noises around the ‘death of the high street’. We’re actually growing our store network as it’s clear to us that people want that face-to-face, personalised service.”

Hays’ workforce is now more than 1,000 strong, with around 400 staff at its Sunderland head office and customer service centre.

The Hays Travel network now expands over 120 branches and a further six Bath Travel outlets are expected to open over the remainder of the year.

Mr Hays noted that he had been able to track down the woman who sang the identifiable Hays Travel radio jingle some 20 years ago and get her to re-record a version which name-checks Bath Travel. The jingle is now playing across radio stations on the South coast.

Mr Hays added: “The group enjoyed a successful year in terms of product development, led again by our tour operating business — a fast growing division which is trading well ahead of last year, both through our retail division and externally.

“The board has confidence in the market opportunity for its core businesses, which is supported by the significant growth in both the group’s tour operating and retail businesses in 2014.”

The accounts also showed the company ended the financial year with £21.5m of commissions earned for holidaymakers’ 2015 bookings, which would be brought into the 2015 profit and loss account.

Hays’ net cash increased by £6.7m during the period, even after the consideration paid for the 40% stake in Just Go Travel Limited. This was largely down to the sale of surplus property which had belonged to Bath Travel.

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