Peoples' sales drive ahead, but firm fears bumpier 2017

Ford dealership Peoples has delivered its strongest financial results in more than three decades of trading and will keep its foot on the gas despite fears of a consumer slowdown.

Peoples chairman Brian Gilda with his daughter Nicola, the Ford dealer's strategy and operations director. Picture: Contributed
Peoples chairman Brian Gilda with his daughter Nicola, the Ford dealer's strategy and operations director. Picture: Contributed

Founder and chairman Brian Gilda – one of Scotland’s most high-profile entrepreneurs – said he had reined in his expectations for the coming year amid political and economic uncertainty, but would continue to explore growth opportunities for the business, which comprises three dealerships in Scotland and four in the north-west of England.

Results released today show that Peoples saw turnover motor ahead 10.1 per cent to £260.6 million in the year to 31 July. Pre-tax profits rose almost 28 per cent to just over £7m.

Year-on-year sales were up 5 per cent to 18,354 vehicles, with the group benefiting from strong demand for models including the Fiesta, Focus and Kuga, as well as bumper sales of commercial vehicles led by the best-selling Transit van.

The firm ranks as the largest independent dealership in Europe retailing only Ford cars and commercial vehicles, and has its Scottish showrooms located in Edinburgh, Falkirk and Livingston.

“We had a great year and I am delighted with the results,” Gilda said. “We are dependent on people feeling good about themselves and wanting to go out and buy cars.

“I can’t see anything reducing significantly but we have certainly moderated our expectations for this coming financial year. However, even in a tough year we will do well because we are a well-organised and well-funded business with a very strong brand.”

Industry figures released on Friday revealed that new car sales had leapt by 7.2 per cent last month compared with October 2015. The gain easily outstripped the increase for the UK as a whole, at just 1.4 per cent, and means that registrations for the year to date in Scotland are running virtually in line with 2015’s total.

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Sandy Burgess, chief executive of industry body the Scottish Motor Trade Association, said of the latest numbers: “There can be no doubt that this result shows that the market is still holding up, regardless of the fact that there will be a significant number of ­tactical registrations within these numbers.

“Low interest rates look set to remain for the foreseeable future, aligned with affordable finance packages and a range of exciting new models.”

Analysts have warned that demand for big-ticket items such as cars could wane if consumers’ purchasing power is significantly weakened by inflationary pressures and muted earnings growth.

Gilda acknowledged the potential for “collateral damage” but added: “We have been discussing opportunities for further investments and we’re at the right time in our evolutionary cycle to do that. I have to be more certain of the implications of factors like Brexit before taking that further.”