Concept Automotive Services set up its first second-hand car supermarket in Southampton in 1992. The Surrey-based company has since expanded to nine national sites, and claims to sell four times as many cars per square foot as its competitors. Profits have increased by 102% pa, from £583,000 in 1995 to £4.8m in 1998, while sales in the same period have increased by 111% pa to reach £89.8m. The company, which re-badged its outlets this year as Carland, specialises in selling former company cars with an average of 60,000 miles on the clock for around £6,000. Finance director Grant Findlay attributes the company’s success to customer service and economies of scale, critical in a sector where profit margins rarely exceed 5%. The company also offers a wide variety of finance deals to attract customers, including extendable warranties. Carland is currently considering expansion to the continent, ahead of changes in UK car distribution in 2002, when the motor trade’s exemption from EU competition laws will be reviewed. The exemption has long been criticised for inflating car sales prices in the UK.
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