Ford dealership Peoples is off to a storming start in the current financial year following one of the strongest September performances in its 31-year history.
Founder and chairman Brian Gilda said sales in August and September were double those recorded in the same period of 2013. This was driven by particularly high demand during the recent plate change, a key trading period for the industry.
“This September turned out to be a real bonanza month because the retail consumer was keen to come out and buy a new car with a new plate,” Gilda said. “The commercial side was very strong as well, so those two things combined produced a big, big month.”
That performance follows a record year of profits and turnover for the group, which runs three dealerships in Scotland and four others in the north-west of England.
The firm’s newly-published annual report shows a 7.8 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £4.4 million for the year to 31 July. Turnover was up by more than 10 per cent at £205m.
Peoples sold 16,129 vehicles during the year – an increase of 8.3 per cent – driven by its expanded commercial division. It benefited from the introduction of a new range of Ford Transit vans.
“We saw an increase in demand from smaller tradesmen, such as local joiners and plumbers,” Gilda said. “They are coming back to the market, so that is a very positive sign.” Increasing consumer confidence, improved automobile quality and access to financing combined to create a “near perfect storm”, paving the way for a second year of healthy growth across the market.
The group is launching top-end FordStores at its flagship sites in Liverpool and Edinburgh as part of a European programme to bring the Mustang and Vignale brands to the market. The overhaul of its existing site in Liverpool will be completed before the end of this year, followed by Edinburgh in the first quarter of 2015.
Peoples is also eyeing up further expansion following the January 2013 acquisition of the former Greyhound Ford dealership in Accrington. Future deals will focus on the North-west of England, where the group has three further Merseyside sites, and central Scotland, where it trades from Edinburgh, Falkirk and Livingston.
“We did have a look at a couple of opportunities a couple of months ago, but they weren’t going to fit the way I would have wanted them to,” Gilda added. “As you know, in business sometimes the best deals you do are the ones you say no to.”
The group employs 395 people, all of whom are paid at least 10 per cent above the current minimum wage of £6.50 per hour for an adult. As part of Peoples’ social responsibility policy, Gilda is aiming to boost that to the UK living wage of £7.65 before the end of the current financial year.
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