Sunderland travel firm makes The Sunday Times list of Britain's fastest-growing companies

John Hays founded his first branch of Hays Travel at the back of his mums childrenswear shop inSeaham.
John Hays founded his first branch of Hays Travel at the back of his mums childrenswear shop inSeaham.
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Sunderland firm Hays Travel has been named as one of the 100 fastest-growing private companies in the country.

It is the first time the company has appeared in The Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100 league table.

Published this weekend, the 17th annual table ranks Britain’s private companies with the fastest-growing profits over three years.

Hays Travel is 35th, having seen its profits grow by an average of £85% a year, to £6million, in 2015.

It more than doubled its retail shop network in 2013 when it bought Bath Travel for an undisclosed sum, and plans to open a further 30 stores in West Yorkshire later this year.

The firm was founded by John Hays, the son of a Seaham miner, in 1980.

With no industry experience, he opened the first branch of Hays Travel at the back of his mum’s childrenswear shop in Seaham.

After a couple of years in the town, Hays set up his second shop in Sunderland, where the Hays empire has its headquarters today.

By subletting to other offices the company managed to expand, and the number of travel agencies grew steadily to eight by the early 1990s.

Today the company has 130 retail travel branches around the country, and has diversified to include call centres, websites and a homeworking division of over 300 agents.

The company now employs more than 1,000 people, and its turnover last year was a record £800million.

Hays is one of four companies headquartered in the North East which has made the Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100.

Featuring for the third time is Durham-based Esh Group, which has divisions involved in most areas of construction, including civil engineering, property development and social housing maintenance.

Improved market confidence, the acquisition of Border Construction for an undisclosed sum, and investment in its Yorkshire operations helped it grow profits by an average of 75% a year to £12m in 2014.

Another new entrant is the Billingham-based Able Group, whose interests include ports, developments and decommissioning. Its profits have grown by 111% over the last three years.

The final North East entrant is Mech-Tool engineering, based in Darlington. It makes protection equipment, has seen profits grow by 90% over three years, and recently won contracts in South Korea and Kazakhstan.

Other companies from around the UK who have made the prestigious list include domestic appliance manufacturer Gtech, craft beer maker BrewDog, sushi bar chain Wasabi and toy retailer The Entertainer.

The league table and awards programme is sponsored by BDO and UBS Wealth Management, and is compiled by Fast Track, the Oxford-based research and networking events firm.

Terry Jones, partner at BDO, said: “Medium-sized businesses across the UK are thriving, creating one in four jobs and responsible for one third of the country’s total revenue.

"They are seizing the opportunities a recovering economy presents, and the most profitable have remained focused on sustainable growth through investment in innovation, diversification and overseas expansion.”

The full league table will be published as a six-page broadsheet supplement with the business section of The Sunday Times on April 10 , both in print and in the digital edition, and at