UK: PREMIER LEAGUE PERFORMER - PARK FOOD.

UK: PREMIER LEAGUE PERFORMER - PARK FOOD. - Small is beautiful for some. A price war might cloud the Christmas of most food retailers, but Peter Johnson is one who looks forward to continuing growth. He is managing director of Park Food Group, the nation

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Small is beautiful for some. A price war might cloud the Christmas of most food retailers, but Peter Johnson is one who looks forward to continuing growth. He is managing director of Park Food Group, the nation's leading supplier of Christmas hampers and something of a stock-market darling.

Throughout the year an army of 70,000 agents covers the country collecting the dues of more than a million subscribers who believe in putting something by for the festive season. This thrifty instinct gives Johnson an enviable cash flow, for it is not until just before Christmas that his hampers, nearly two million of them, are delivered.

All Johnson has to do is to count his good fortune, hire packers, buy food in the autumn, and despatch them. Cash deposits were £50 million last year and, says Johnson, will reach £65 million this year - not bad for a venture started 25 years ago in his father's Birkenhead butcher's shop. His own stake in the business is worth some £70 million and, one imagines, he chuckles frequently when he recalls that some years ago, Great Universal Stores tried to buy him out for £1 million.

His success has raised some spirits in his native Merseyside. A football fanatic, he agreed to rescue his almost insolvent local club, Tranmere Rovers, some six years ago. They were then languishing at the bottom of the fourth divison with oblivion a strong possibility.

Now after five and a half years with Johnson as chairman, they are high in the first division and hopeful of promotion to join giants such as Liverpool and Everton in the Premier League.

Even this hasn't absorbed all Johnson's energy: Nightrider, a high-speed freight delivery service which Johnson has doubled in size through a series of acqui-sitions, is planned to come to the stock market next year.

As he contemplates his own Christmas on the white sands of the West Indian island of Barbados, Johnson admits: 'If I have any problems at the moment, I cannot think what they are.'

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