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Inchcape UK forgoes COVID support in 2021 after repaying £7.4m

James Brearley, Inchcape UK chief executive

Inchcape UK has revealed that it claimed no Government COVID-19 support in 2021 after taking the decision to repay £7.4 million in Government furlough and rates relief support for H2 2020.

The AM100 PLC stated that it had made no claims for relief in 2021 after repaying the cash in a move which preceded similar pledges from Marshall Motor Group and Lookers.

And following July’s stellar interim trading update for the period to June 30, chief executive James Brearley (pictured) said that the group’s decision to prioritise a rapid return to trading – embracing the market’s rebound – had been “as one of the best” decisions the business has made.

Brearley, who was interviewed by AM for a dealer profile earlier this year, said the group started to plan the return to showroom trading in detail around three weeks into the first lockdown of 2020.

He said that the market’s bounce in June, July and August last year made it “an easy decision” not to furlough staff in H2.

Reflecting on the decision in light of the resulting trading success, he said: “Now we’re well into H2 of 2021 I still stand by our decision as one of the best we’ve made.

“We’ve been able to keep people in work so they don’t have to worry and we’ve been able to deliver over and above for our OEMs despite the challenges of COVID throughout the year.

“In all but one of our brands’ composite reports we are significantly ahead of national average return on sales and this is without external support.”

Inchcape said that it would have been eligible to claim over £5m in Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme support had it not made the decision to prioritise the rapid return to normal trading.

In his interview with AM earlier this year, Brearley revealed the group’s plan to open 20 more Used Car Centres to its portfolio as it targets future growth away from a significantly restructured franchised portfolio.

A new brand for the used car division, which incoprorates fast-fit aftersales facilities, will be launched later this year.

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