New business from Unilever and the resilience of the grocery trade helped distribution giant Stobart Group to a 53% surge in profits.

Last winter’s harsh weather cost the business more than £500,000, Stobart said, but new contracts worth £50m over the year and efficiency savings in its core trucking business helped pre-tax profits rise to £34.2m.

Revenues grew 3.8% to £447.7m.

“Compared with most rivals, we are comparatively recession-resistant,” the group said in a statement. “Most of our deliveries are in the food and drink sector, and that is also more recession proof than most other forms of transport delivery.

"Our new contract with Unilever is also good news. A lot of their products sell irrespective of recession and season.

“You still need bathroom cleaner or washing powder no matter what the state of the economy, or whether it's summer or winter.”

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