Family firm Bolts Car Hire has been run by John and Arlene Garriock since 1995, providing visitors with rental cars to explore the island. In 2008 they acquired Sinclair’s Taxis, expanding a five-car fleet to 21 to cope with demand.
However, when Covid-19 hit, Bolts was left with 1,500 cancellations and 150 unused cars, while it furloughed 15 of its full-time staff and all 30 part-time drivers. Four taxi drivers remained working along with Mr Garriock, the MD, and his daughter.
To ensure sufficient cashflow, the company decided to tap into the rising demand for commercial vehicles from firms building windfarms across Shetland
The business approached Bank of Scotland for support, securing the £1m funding to buy 55 commercial vehicles including 20 vans and 31 4x4 pick-up trucks. Bolts Car Hire also consolidated its four depots into one larger premises in Lerwick with full garage facilities and petrol pumps.
In 2017, the firm turned over £1.5m and is now focused on building back its business to similar levels within the next couple of years.
Mr Garriock said: “Thanks to the support from Bank of Scotland, we were able to buy the new vehicles and reach a new customer base that we will continue to service as tourism starts to pick up once again.
“Tourism levels are still far below what they should be at this time of year, but we’ve seen a steady increase in bookings as lockdown measures ease and we hope to see this trend continue as we head into summer.”
David Henderson, relationship manager at Lloyds-owned Bank of Scotland, said: “Tourism has been one of the sectors most affected by the pandemic, with most businesses seeing customer numbers dwindle. Shetland had seen its tourism economy grow by over £12m in 2019, but this growth halted when the pandemic hit last March.
“Bolts Car Hire has displayed tremendous resilience to withstand the challenges it has faced over the past year, and we’ve been proud to support this local business as it diversifies its operations to branch into a new market.”