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01 May 2004
The Herald
Arnold Clark on road to expansion in England on back of strong trading

ARNOLD Clark, the Scottish motor trade giant, is planning a major push south of the border after notching up its best month's trading figures yet in April.

The Glasgow-based business, one of Scotland's biggest privately-owned companies, is targeting sites in north-west England as it looks to cash in on record demand for cars.

Sir Arnold Clark, chairman of the family-owned company, said he was looking forward to another good year despite gloomy forecasts.

He said: 'I don't pay a lot of attention to experts who try to make predictions. People have been predicting a drop in used car prices but that's not happening; they're now 5% ahead. The motor trade is looking all right.'

Sir Arnold, 75, was knighted this year. He was named Scotland's business leader of the year - ahead of fellow finalists Fred Goodwin, chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Tom Hunter, the entrepreneur - last October at the Insider Elite awards.

He was described then by judges as an antidote to retirement and was praised for leading his company to continued growth in a tough marketplace.

Sir Arnold set up his car dealership with just 174 in his pocket.

Despite unease at the Bank of England about soaring consumer spending, Clark directors said yesterday they were not worried the spending spree could be brought to an abrupt halt by increased interest rates or a housing market slowdown.

Eddie Hawthorne, managing director, said: 'People will still have to get to work and will still need cars.'

The 125-strong chain has 13 sites in England, including six in the north-west.

Mr Hawthorne said Clark had no fixed target for the number of new outlets it wanted to develop, to help the firm extract operating efficiencies in areas such as logistics as well as allowing it to cut better advertising deals with the media.

MARK WILLIAMSON



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