H&H Group adapts to new business climate with improved profit levels

Richard Rankin
X The Business Desk

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Yearly figures for the Carlisle-based H&H Group have been released for year ending June 30, 2021, and highlight improved performance within the group’s businesses, despite the numerous challenges of working in a COVID-restricted environment.

The results show an overall operating profit of £1.532m, which is up from £742,000 in 2020, and profit before tax stands at £1.223m, increased from £330,000 in the previous year.

Turnover was £14.694m, compared with £13.526m in 2020.

In February this year H&H reported that half year sales in the six months to December 31, 2020, rose by more than six per cent to £7.6m, while pre-tax profits of £1.042m compared with £302,000 the previous year.

This achievement has been led by chief executive, Richard Rankin, who has brought in new, robust changes that have seen the team within each business of the H&H group of companies be able to achieve such a high level of success.

The H&H Group has a strong asset base, which has seen an increase from £19.4m in 2020, to the current £21m. With new measures in place to future-proof the business, the board has recommended a dividend of 15p per share, in addition to the interim dividend of 5p per share announced in December. This makes a total dividend for the year of 20p per share, compared with 2020 where no final dividend was recommended to protect the group from a turbulent economic climate.

Richard Rankin said: “During an unprecedented year, the group and all its people have shown incredible adaptability, and as a result, has performed very strongly. This has been a positive year in almost every respect for Harrison & Hetherington Farmstock Auctioneers with both volumes and prices up on prior years.

“The farmstock business has improved its market share and the uplift in values has helped to build confidence in the agri-industry, especially in the beef and sheep sectors. The success in online marketing and selling has also continued, as both the team and customers embrace this new way of trading. Digital trading is now making significant contributions to this business, and we expect this to continue and evolve going forward.”

He added: “As the reputation of Harrison & Hetherington continues to grow across the UK and beyond, we have every reason to be extremely confident in its position for the future.

“Several prestigious pedigree and commercial sales have been held, demonstrating the industry’s confidence in our business, and our reputation as one of the UKs leading traders of livestock and genetics. The team has continued to excel in their field, and to drive this business forwards we have invested significantly in the next generation of leaders.

“As a result of renewed focus, different thinking and further investments, H&H Insurance Brokers have demonstrated a strong bounce back in performance. Across the board, performances have exceeded expectations, particularly around new business targets. This has resulted in a return to profitability, and more importantly, a secure base with which to continue steady growth. The team has continued to grow in number, experience, and confidence, and the company looks set for another solid year.”

He said: “Through difficult trading conditions the teams in our Land and Estate Agency business, H&H Land and Estates, performed exceptionally well to finish the year ahead of both budget and prior year’s results. The Stamp Duty holiday, combined with the escalating interest in rural homes and properties, have resulted in a notable increase in volume of work.

“This division appointed a new head of property and introduced a new business model, which has been very successful, and it is well placed to grow and build on its strong reputation. To support this development, and clients, ahead of the changes to the Government schemes and the introduction of the Environmental Land Management Scheme, there are further changes to the working remit for this team and new members and roles are being appointed and expanded, particularly around forestry and carbon off setting.”

Mr Rankin said the impact of COVID-19 has been most felt with H&H Reeds, the print, signage, graphic design, website developers and now digital marketing business: “Tourism and hospitality represent a significant proportion of the customer base, so clearly this affected sales. Sadly, several members of staff were on furlough for long periods of time. However, from August of this financial year, activity has picked up back to pre-COVID levels. We are now seeing positive signs and confidence returning across the various markets we service.”

The signs and digital side of the business continued to perform strongly, with some significant contracts won which secure the future and underpin continued investment. More recently the group has launched its digital marketing agency, building on its website development team with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) specialisms and led by an experienced and proven player in this market.

Reflecting on the progress since 2020, he said: “I am immensely proud of the whole team at the H&H Group for rising to the business challenges in such difficult times.

“The talent and enthusiasm of the people have resulted in the group performing incredibly well. Having a broad spectrum of businesses within the group provides a huge range of skills and experience which has been invaluable for adjusting to new business environments.

“This demonstrates our commitment to the rural economy and our customers and provides a strong and positive foundation for future growth.

“We are also committed to investing in our people and recently all levels of senior staff have completed bespoke management and leadership training. We also have a reputation for developing young staff through apprenticeships, and we continue to build on this across all the businesses.

“These opportunities will only grow, as we gain market share and expand our portfolio.”

He added: “The group will also look to invest and develop both organically and through future acquisitions where they add value.

“Our aim going forward is to work with our customers to enhance the services and increase the range of products and services they require, to ensure that their businesses are fit for the future.”