Eastern Holdings saw pre tax profits rise 32.8% to £15.8m on turnover down -14.1% to £664.7m in 2020.
Like all dealer groups, it was hit hard in the first lockdown with showrooms temporarily closed for business, with profitability £8m down on the previous year
From the start of the lockdown one to the end of June the company sold over 8,000 vehicles less than the previous year while aftersales saw 100,000 less labour hours sold and £7m less in parts sales.
“Whilst vehicle sales numbers declined, we were able to deliver a similar result to the previous year in used car profitability due to improved retained margins even with a 12% decrease in sales volumes.
“This combined with a tighter control of overheads produced a 10% increase in profitability with the sales departments. Our like for like new car sales decreased by 21% compared to the Scottish market reduction of 28%,” it said in results filed at Companies House.
The group topped up staff pay to 100% from the 80% on offer from the government under the furlough scheme. The average number of employees in 2020 was 1,542 compared to 1,613 in 2019.
In May 2021 it acquired Alex F Noble & Son, taking its Nissan representation to five outlets.
“Overall, the directors are satisfied with the group performance for 2020 and are extremely grateful for the huge effort and commitment demonstrated by all out staff during this unprecedented time.
The group said more work needs to be done online. “Covid-19 has exposed a weakness in the online capabilities of many car retailers. More work needs to be done in conjunction with our manufacturer partners to create real A-Z Online Retailing.
“During the lockdown the group enjoyed a degree of success form its online selling tools but was also clear more development work is needed.”