Turnover at The Alternative Parcels Company (APC) grew by almost a fifth last year after the pandemic led to a parcel volumes “surging” and home delivery became the choice for millions.

Latest figures for the independent parcel delivery network, for the year ending 31 March 2021, showed that revenue increased by 18.61% to £134.6m.

Pre-tax profit also increased to £9.2m from £4.7m the year before.

The APC said the effects of Covid-19 were felt early in its financial year, with parcel volumes increasing quickly and it had to adapt quickly to support the surge and changes to the delivery profile, as homes became the dominant destination.

It said there was significant growth across all its services, but especially within niche areas such as fragile and liquid – with food and drink forming the largest sector of growth during the year.

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Jonathan Smith, The APC chief executive, said: “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen growing demand for parcel services, driven by a surge in consumer e-commerce activity and the preference for home delivery.

“But perhaps most impressively, in response to this shift in purchasing habits, we’ve seen so many of our SME customers quickly adapt, proving their resilience and entrepreneurialism, and thriving as a result.

“It’s this resilience of the SME community that has largely contributed to the growth we’ve seen across our network.”

Smith added: “The pandemic has fundamentally changed the shape of distribution, and in fact, the whole dynamic of the industry; how people are shopping, how people need deliveries and their delivery expectations.

“It has required a structural shift in our business and will continue to shape our priorities in the coming months.”