The past 12 months have made Arnold Clark a ‘fitter, leaner business’ and it turn in a ‘really great’ financial performance, believes the firm’s boss.
The Scottish-based dealer group, which was named the most profitable dealer in the Car Dealer Top 100 published this week, saw profits and turnover soar despite enduring lockdowns and restrictions on trading.
It topped our unique league with a whopping £354.2m EBITDA profit in 2020, nearly double that of second-placed Sytner Group which raked in a £177.5m EBITDA profit.
Accounts filed with Companies House show that Arnold Clark turned over £3.8bn last year – down 14.9 per cent on the year before due to the impact of Covid-19 and the closure of its retail sites.
In an exclusive interview with Car Dealer, which you can watch at the top of this story, CEO Eddie Hawthorne put the stunning performance and its first place in the Top 100 down to his staff.
‘I’m very proud of the staff – they have worked tremendously hard over the last 18 months, and have just taken everything that was thrown at them,’ he said.
‘We’ve managed to work our way through this and genuinely it was a really great performance.’
Hawthorne explained Arnold Clark didn’t rely on the furlough scheme quite as heavily as some other large dealer groups, taking £64.3m between March and October 2020.
‘We used the furlough scheme in the first lockdown because, like everybody else, we didn’t know what was around the corner.
‘At its peak we had 12,000 staff on furlough and yes, we did get a significant amount of money from the job retention scheme, but every penny of that went to the employees – that really just covered about two months’ payroll.’
The Car Dealer Top 100, sponsored by Carwow and compiled by former ASE Global chairman Mike Jones with the help of Interpath, shows just how profitable 2020 has been for Arnold Clark, despite Covid-19.
Its £354.2m EBITDA profit was £176.7m – and practically two times – greater than second-placed Sytner Group, and a whopping £223.8m more than third-placed Pendragon raked in.
Despite the pressures during 2020, Hawthorne said he feels Arnold Clark has emerged as a fitter business.
‘We’re leaner, slimmer, fitter and a wee bit more agile than we were before,’ he remarked.
‘Our main development has been the digital journey that we have with our customers.
‘We’ve been working on this for a number of years, and if there was anything good to come out of this pandemic, it was the acceptance of our digital journey from our customers.
‘This has seen us through a lot of the challenges – we were still able to communicate and do business with our customers.’
Arnold Clark is well-known for its successful used car operation, and Car Dealer Top 100 compiler Mike Jones said – in our main Top 100 video which you can watch by clicking here – it’ll be interesting to see how the current booming used car market will affect Arnold Clark’s 2021 results.
Speaking about the used car market in 2021, Hawthorne said: ‘I don’t think you can print what my take is.
‘In 35 years I have never seen anything like it. We’ve had weeks, if not a year, of constant increases in values, and this has shifted how we operate.
‘We’re still trying to operate at pace and turn our cars around as quickly as possible.
‘I keep pinching myself every month to see if this is real, but it is real – it’s the new environment we’re living in.
‘This year will be a very good year for Arnold Clark.’
Top 100 is available to Car Dealer registered members – click here to sign up and read