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Centenary dealers

Sturgess: established 1897

“Knowing your limitations” and “a sense of humour” are the cornerstones to staying in business for 100 years, according to Chris Sturgess, chairman of Leicestershire-based WE Sturgess & Sons.

The fourth generation to run the business, Chris is supported by his managing director brother Barney and together they preside over a group representing a wide range of automotive brands.

Not bad considering founder and the brothers’ great grandfather Walter E Sturgess’ false start when he went to seek his fortune in Australia at the end of the 19th century.

Although he met his wife there, the venture otherwise proved fruitless and the pair worked a number of menial jobs to pay for the return trip.

Back in their native Leicestershire, Walter opened his bicycle business in 1897 calling it ‘Austral’ as well as adopting his trade mark, a kangaroo on a shield which is still used today.

Now, 114 years later, the group operates from four premises representing Jaguar and Land Rover – a relationship that stretches back to the early days when Walter was first appointed as a Rover specialist in 1904 – Volvo, Alfa Romeo, Nissan and Fiat as well as holding approved repairer status for Toyota.

Sturgess said: “My great grandfather had a real eye for an opportunity and was always looking at ways to diversify and incorporate additional revenue streams.

“I think my father made some vital strategic decisions by signing as an official dealer for Jaguar and Land Rover in the late 1940s.

"I consider our long standing relationship with these brands as one of our greatest achievements over the past 100 years particularly as it all started when Walter became the official agent for Rover.”

Not surprisingly, the awarding of a Royal Warrant to the business in the 1970s for supplying trailers, which Sturgess still holds, is a matter of pride for the company.

“More latterly, though, survival is very much a major achievement. I think we have managed to do so because we have grown organically and as such have written our own agenda whereas a forced expansion can leave a business exposed.

"The lesson we have all had to learn is that to stay in business you have to stay alert to opportunities and change; and make sure you have a plan B.”

He said: “We have learned from the generations who have gone before us about how to run a successful business and I’m sure our forefathers would be delighted to see their legacy living on.”

Hutchings: established 1896

Gilbert Hutchings’ 1896 butcher’s shop in South Wales heralded the beginnings of an automotive business a decade later, which is now run by his great grandson John, as chairman, and great great grandson Steve, as sales and marketing director.

Steve said: “The heartland of our business is the Rhondda Valley and we have continued to serve these communities whose own generations of families have supported our business.

“Just as in my great, great grandfather’s day, today’s customer still expects my father and I to be hands on and running the company at grass roots level.”

Hutchings enjoys gen-erations of customers as well as generations of employees.

The dealership has just sold its 14th Vauxhall to customer Roy Saunders, the second generation of his family to be loyal customers.

Another customer, in his will, requested that his children continued to buy their vehicles from the family and, although they lived in London,
they fulfilled his request for years.

By building a successful butchers and meat distribution business Gilbert developed alongside it a vehicle repair operation, after he acquired a delivery van in 1908 and realised he would need someone to maintain it.

Soon the Hutchings business was offering the service to other local vehicle owners as the motor vehicle grew in popularity.

Hutchings was a relative late-comer to sales and did not embrace retail until the 1930s.

Two decades later Leighton, Gilbert’s grandson and Steve’s grandfather, recognised the potential of the Vauxhall brand as consumerism took off in the 1950s. In 1957 he became an official supplier.

It was then that Hutchings’ automotive retail really made its name, leading through relocations to its current Treforest location, its home since 2007.

“The internet, emails and mobiles are certainly the way we need to be communicating,” said Steve who has just launched the company’s new website with features more likely to be adopted by much larger groups.

“However, the way you treat people to guarantee they come back and recommend your business will never change.”
 

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