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Swan wants Bulldog to savage UK parts leader

Former Finelist boss Chris Swan has bought back Autela and Edmunds Walker for an undisclosed sum, thought to be around £2m, making his Bulldog Express parts distribution business the third largest in the UK. Mr Swan, who said he was “emotionally attached” to the AEW business, has ambitious plans to replace Unipart as the UK's largest automotive parts supplier. He said: “To become No1 is an ideal position. It may take two years, it may take five – the important thing is to do it properly.” The 16 AEW outlets – acquired from Finelist receivers Ernst & Young – will continue to trade as Autela Edmunds Walker. They will be restructured around the Bulldog blueprint of larger sites holding more stock. “Our first site in Brighton, for example, holds £500,000 of stock and 12,000 part numbers, which is far more than the usual distribution centre,” said Mr Swan. “The sites we have acquired average £1m turnover. With the new format they will be turning over £3m. It is important to have critical mass to enable customers to benefit from efficiency savings.” The £30m turnover Bulldog, which now has 21 outlets, will expand to 40 sites “hopefully within three years”. Mr Swan said: “Timescale is not the issue for achieving the expansion plans, doing it properly is. We prefer to expand through greenfield sites, but the Autela Edmunds Walker business has helped to kick-start our way to 40 outlets.” AEW staff will be retained and the network will be controlled by recently appointed managing director Tony Irving. He has 38 years' motor trade experience, much of it with Autela. Mr Swan expects a wholesale upheaval of the £4bn distribution sector. He believes the current structure involves too many middlemen, who each take profit from the chain, reducing margins for the motor factor. “We will be taking a much simpler and streamlined approach to market, which will also improve availability to the end user,” he said. “The UK market is highly fragmented. Seventy per cent of the market consists of one or two site independents – they will have to consolidate as the other players get bigger.”

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