The Co-operative Travel has credited its rebranded high-street shop network as a major factor in turning an operating loss of £2.1 million in 2007 into a £5.3 million profit in 2008.

After interest, the figures represent a record profit of £12.9 million – equivalent of pre-tax profit – for the 52 weeks ending January 10 2009, up from £500,000 for the previous year. The £5.3 million profit is before interest.

Gross revenue for the year was up 20.7%, compared with a 44% rise last year, from £217 million to £262 million.

The figures cover sales from the group’s high-street shops, homeworking, business travel and consortia agents, and online. A new website launched in December is attributed with significantly increasing web sales, up by 250% in January compared with the same month in 2008.

Managing director Mike Greenacre said the rebranding of the group’s travel branches, completed last year, the closure of loss-making shop branches and specialist businesses such as Apollo, investment in a major refurbishment programme, and the benefits of a consolidated IT system had boosted figures.

He said: “We are now fully reaping the benefits of consolidated IT systems and the rebranding of all our travel branches. In addition, we are seeing positive results as a consequence of a number of difficult decisions taken last year, which included a number of closures – both of branches and of some of our specialist businesses.”

But Greenacre warned of the impact of the struggling economy on travel sales.

He said: “I would sound a note of caution as travel sales since the turn of the year have suffered as much as many industries as a result of the global credit crunch.

“In addition, the strength of the euro versus the strength of the pound has had a negative impact on holidays within the eurozone, while job insecurity has meant that many holidaymakers are waiting far longer than before to book.”

Nevertheless, Greenacre remains confident sales will pick up in the late sales period for this summer, as previously reported by Travel Weekly (April 17) and that the group will enjoy “another profitable year”. It has already announced the launch of a new tour operation for 2010 in a new joint venture with Cosmos.

The results come as parent company The Co-operative Group – which has food, financial and funeral services in its portfolio – posted record results. Gross sales including VAT were up 15% to £10.4 billion from £9.4 billion the previous year. Profit before payments to and on behalf of members – the equivalent of pre-tax profits – increased 11% to £218 million for the year.