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Cambria ‘trading ahead’ of previous financial year after COVID-related cost actions

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AM100 car retail PLC Cambria Automobiles has reported that it has been “trading ahead” of its previous financial year during the first five months of its 2020/21 reporting period.

In a trading update for the five month period to January 31, 2021, the Swindon-based franchised dealer group said that the improved performance had come as a direct result of “COVID-related cost actions taken by the Group in the 2019/20 financial year”.

Cambria announced in an update back in September that it was embarking on series of cost-cutting measures which included a "significant reduction" in employee headcount.

Today (March 3) it reported that this, combined with the board’s utilisation of Government support packages, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) grant and business rates relief, had helped to deliver “pleasing” financial results.

The group said that it net debt balances as of February 28 totalled £5.7m, adding: “Throughout the pandemic, the Group has remained up to date with all of its VAT payments and has not utilised the VAT deferral scheme."

However, Cambria’s trading update, issued via the London Stock Exchange, said: “The various Lockdown and Tiering strategies, particularly through the important plate change month of March, will have a material impact on the Group’s financial performance in the year to 31 August 2021 and, as a result, the Board deems it prudent to continue the suspension of financial guidance to the market.

“The order bank for March is behind the same period last year, however the roll out of the national vaccination programme is progressing well and an end to Lockdown 3 is in sight. 

“The Group is working as effectively as possible in the face of the challenges outlined and continues to take a prudent approach to managing its cost base and cash flow whilst utilising all of the learnings from nationwide Lockdowns.

“Following the work undertaken to operate safe and effective showrooms for our Associates and Guests in 2020, the Group is confident of meeting consumer demand when allowed to welcome Guests, hopefully from 12 April, in line with current Government guidance.”

Sales performance

Cambria reported that all of its showrooms had been closed for 54 days due to COVID-19 Lockdown restrictions during the reported period, with the majority closed for a further 16 days as they operated in Tier 4 restricted regions. 

It added that the current Lockdown 3 restrictions continue to impact on the volume of new and used cars that can be sol, despite the provision of a click and collect service. 

Cambria said that the new car market was down 14.4% in the reported period with the private segment down 13.3% and the diesel content down 37.3%.

The Group’s new vehicle unit sales were down 14.4%, with sales of new retail cars down 15.3%.   

Used vehicle sales were down 31% compared with the same period in the prior year, however the gross profit per unit increased 16.4% to partially offset the effect of the reduction.   

Overall, the Group’s aftersales operations delivered a good performance and whilst revenue decreased by 14%, the contribution from the aftersales departments improved as a result of the Group’s reduced cost base, it added.

Cambria expects to announce its Interim Results for the six months to February 28, 2021, on May 5.

In a recent interview with AM, Cambria chief executive, Mark Lavery, said he was keen to get back to trading from car showrooms on April 12, but respected Government’s cautious approach to easing the latest Lockdown.

He said: “In lockdown one we didn’t lock down quickly enough and we took a long time to come out; in lockdown two we didn’t lockdown quickly enough and we came out too quickly. Let’s hope this time Government is taking the right approach.”

Lavery said that he had been impressed with his business’s switch to remote sales and customer engagement and suggested that the latest lockdown had been less painful than those that came before, when “awful decisions” had to be made to implement redundancies and make cuts to safeguard the business.

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