The top boss of haulier Jack Richards & Sons said an upsurge in EU exports from local manufacturing firms was driving “exciting” new growth that could spark new jobs.

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Peter Brown, managing director of the Fakenham-based firm, said the Palletways arm of the business – which carries out deliveries for smaller firms– had doubled its EU revenues in the last year from £50,000 to £100,000.

The 100pc increase – albeit from a low base – has been fuelled by fresh demand from mainland Europe for specialist agricultural and safety equipment made within the region.

And he is forecasting a further 20pc increase in year-on-year growth that could lead to a recruitment drive this year – if the European economy strengthens and they continue to see growing demand for small-scale deliveries from online retail.

The bright forecast comes despite a bumpy ride for the firm’s general haulage business, as last year’s bitter weather shrunk volumes in the construction and DIY sectors.

But a £4m contract with packaging firm Smurfit Kappa helped revenues to grow by 6.6pc, with its turnover reaching £29.7m, as pre-tax profits shrunk slightly from £893,878 in 2012, to £687,377 in 2013.

Mr Brown, who invested in 60 new tractor units and 60 trailers last year, said he is confident that the firm will exceed last year’s growth, as sales have already hit £22m this year compared £19.7m at the same point last year.

“There are signs of improvement in the sector,” he said. “At the beginning of last year we had a difficult start because of the cold weather in January, February and March, which meant the building sector had very little volume, while we also saw little volume from the DIY sector as well.

“It is the reason for the small fall in margins year-on-year. But once we got beyond March the weather warmed up and the economy warmed up with it.

“We haul aggregate and those guys are showing signs of picking up. The manufacturing sector and the retail sector is still a little hard work. There has still been some increases in volume, but not much, which makes it a competitive environment still.

“However, in the Palletways business, which looks after smaller firms, we are seeing some quite strong growth, as those companies start exporting to the EU.

“These specialist manufacturers are starting to push volume out and into the EU. We only launched our EU business three years ago, but it has already and volumes doubled last year.”

• Do you have a company update to share? Contact 01603 772426 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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