ONE of Cumbria's major employers has revealed it has improved its turnover and operating profits in what they described as a 'challenging year'.

Carlisle-based H&H Group said the results for the year to June 30, 2023, reflected an 'excellent performance' given the unprecedented challenges of the past year's dramatic rise in inflation and interest rates.

Turnover of £19m was up on the previous year's £17.221m level. Operating profit was up from £1.8m to £1.9m, although pre-tax profits of £1.412m dropped from £1.509m from the previous year.

The board has unanimously recommended a final dividend of 15p to be added to the interim dividend of 5p and be paid out next month, the same as the previous two years.

Chief executive, Richard Rankin, said: “In these challenging times this is a fantastic performance proving the resilience of the group and the strength of its diversified business model.”

H&H Group operates as a holding company with its subsidiary companies operational across the livestock marketing, auctioneering, commercial print, digital marketing, insurance and property sectors.

The group is diverse in both geography and operation with a reputation spanning more than 150 years.

Mr Rankin said: “It has been another successful year for the Harrison & Hetherington team, proving again that they can consistently deliver the best service and value to our loyal customers.

"This business continues to grow its footprint and market share and establish itself as the clear market leader, both in terms of size but more importantly the depth of expertise we offer.

"The senior management team is now well established and making a tangible difference to the operations of the business as it grows, evolves and broadens its range of traditional and digital services.

“We saw another strong and consistent year from the award-winning H&H Insurance Brokers team, building more success on solid foundations.

"Together with the successful Tynedale acquisition, we have continued to invest in people and geographical expansion.

"In addition to Cumbria and the North East we now cover North Yorkshire and the south of Scotland, and the suite of financial products and services we can offer, continues to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.

“Our land and property business, H&H Land & Estates, has experienced a year of mixed fortunes. Once again, our land agency team have pulled out another strong performance in the face of a drastically changing financial landscape and huge uncertainty in the sector. The team has taken full advantage of the opportunities to support clients facing enormous challenges and added further to our reputation for the quality and value of our expertise and advice, particularly in the environmentally focused new landscape of government policy.

“The housing market did nothing to help our estate agency business but, with the exception of one location, we managed to hold our own against the competition. This was not enough to avoid making losses, but we have made significant structural changes and key leadership appointments, which has reduced our cost base to make us more robust during these difficult times.

“Despite enjoying an uplift in turnover, H&H Reeds has been hampered by the savage increases in the cost of materials and energy. The core printing business illustrated the difficulties of turning higher turnover into profit when paper price increases proved impossible to pass on to customers also struggling with cost inflation.

“The performance of all our businesses depends on the quality and commitment of our people, and this year’s performance is a testimony to them all. I have been acutely aware that cost and interest inflation has affected everyone at home as well as at work but our people have risen to the challenge once again and kept the Group’s trajectory on course.

“Our investment in the upskilling and development of our teams across the whole Group is paying dividends, and we’ve continued to recruit the very best to support this growth.

"We have also benefited from our investment in the future with our commitment to apprenticeships and it has been very rewarding to see many apprentices moving into more responsible positions within the operating companies.

"The values and behaviours model developed over the past few years is now firmly embedded into the business, and this creates the right culture from within the business as we continue to strengthen and grow our H&H family."