Grimsby motorhome manufacturer Auto-Trail has seen sales return to near pre-pandemic levels as demand outstretched supply.
Despite a strong return for the Europarc team, directors were frustrated by Covid-linked supply chain challenges.
Turnover was up 36 per cent from £48.7 million to £66.2 million, with margins also significantly healthier, up from 9.5 per cent to 15 per cent.
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Operating profit came in at £9.9 million, more than double the £4.6 million achieved in the previous year, one hampered by a complete lockdown of manufacturing and dealerships.
A huge “desire to control your own social space” saw “the strong demand for motorhomes that followed the end of the first national lockdown increase progressively, resulting in a very healthy order book for the company by the start of the year,” financial director Shane Devoy said in his strategic report accompanying the results,
He told how by the middle of the first quarter it was clear that the planned 30 per cent volume increase would be surpassed in the 12 months to August 31 last year.
And minimal impact from further measures to control the Covid spread in the November and following new year, did little to halt the flow of orders – leading to a decision to close the book.
Mr Devoy said the positive outlook was tempered with disruption to the supply chain at the French-owned business, with raw material shortages and a lack of staff on production lines eroding productivity “resulting in increased labour costs and significant delays to output”.
“These operational difficulties prevailed throughout the year,” he said. “As a result, we were unable to fully satisfy all the orders taken in the year. While this has been frustrating, the directors are satisfied that original budget plans had been exceeded and a significant improvement in profits has been made compared to the previous year.
“We expect the forthcoming year to be less disruptive. The continued desire for staycations, driven by some form of travel restrictions remaining in place for many overseas destinations, has once again resulted in a large increase in the orders taken for the forthcoming year. With inroads made into recruitment and stabilisation of the raw material supply, we believe that the business is well placed to capitalise on this opportunity and deliver another strong financial performance in the coming year.”
In the year to September 2019, Auto-Trail had recorded sales of £69 million against a backdrop of political uncertainty with Brexit implications, issues around diesel engines and vehicle excise duty changes that were subsequently scrapped. It had hit £90 million in 2018, having built up from £65.9 and £74.2 million in the years before.
Employee numbers were up 14, from 186 to 200, in the year in focus.