Gift wrap firm has a cracker of a half-year

The official Christmas cracker manufacturer for the Queen reported a robust half-year performance yesterday after selling two billion feet of gift wrap.

International Greetings, which sells Christmas crackers, cards and stationery, posted a 50 per cent increase in underlying pre-tax profits to £3.2 million in the six months to 30 September, while sales were up 6 per cent to £110.3m.

The Hatfield-based company, which was formed in 1979 and now sells in 20 countries, said sales were driven by gift wrap and its Everyday range of cards for occasions outside of Christmas, such as birthdays.

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The company’s Tom Smith brand, which was acquired ten years ago, was granted a royal warrant in 1906, making International Greetings the official maker of crackers each year for the Royal Household.

Chief executive Paul Fineman said strong sales in the UK, Australia and US were offset by weak trading in continental Europe as the region’s debt crisis took its toll.

But he added: “We’re cautious in continental Europe and we’re prepared for a tough time.”

Fineman said strong sales of crackers for home use were offset by weaker sales for company use, as businesses cut back on Christmas party spend.

He added: “We have achieved sales and profit growth despite the challenging market conditions and have continued to enjoy significant business with value and mass market retailers across the globe.”