Lookers, one of the top three motor retail and service groups in the UK, is set to deliver over 200,000 cars to its customers this year through a network of 160 dealerships, supported by more than 8500 employees.
In the December issue of North East Times, Nigel reflected on the challenge of mergers and acquisitions and now, as we near the first anniversary of the Benfield acquisition, he tells us how retaining the best of Benfield has made Lookers even stronger.
“I have been in the sector for more than 20 years and the acquisition of Benfield was the smoothest yet,” he states.
“Not only did Benfield bring 30 dealerships into the Lookers portfolio, we also quickly identified a number of talented Benfield people who have since been promoted to senior Lookers positions. Colin Pybus (franchise director – volume division) and Heike O’Leary (marketing director) have been appointed to the operational board, while other key ex-Benfield staff such as Mark King (sales support), Lyn Carruthers (culture and engagement), David Petherick (accountancy) and Steve Bainbridge (retail sales experience) have been promoted to bigger group roles.
“These appointments reinforce my belief that this acquisition was the perfect strategic and cultural fit for Lookers as we look to not only expand the business, but strengthen it.”
As well as being a perfect fit in terms of personnel, Benfield also represented the perfect jigsaw piece for Lookers as it sought to strengthen its geographical position.
Nigel adds: “Lookers had a strong geographic presence in the North West, London, South West, the central belt in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Benfield was the ideal acquisition to cover the North East of England and strengthen our dealer network in Yorkshire. We are also continuing with our investment programme in the North East with dealership refurbishments at Nissan Newcastle, Volkswagen Scotswood Road and Audi in Sunderland.”
Another area of investment that has helped the company stay one step ahead of the competition is technology, both in terms of how the business operates and the experience it is able to provide its customers.
“We are in the process of rolling out new systems and processes across the group,” Nigel explains. “Benfield brought with it a number of excellent and robust procedures that we are taking into Lookers, demonstrating what a well-run and forward-thinking business it was.
“Our customers expect more from our online presence and our systems will need to reflect this. The days of three-car dealerships are now long gone. We need to offer a dealership network that can deliver a true customer experience when buying a new vehicle.”
To support the name change from Benfield to Lookers, an extensive marketing programme has been designed and delivered across many online, offline and broadcasting channels, including an extensive TV campaign. The new Lookers brand is now visible across the region, with a presence at local sporting venues and, of course, above the door across its dealership network in the North East.
So, with the successful acquisition and integration of Benfield into the Lookers network completed, we ask Nigel for his outlook for the year ahead. He replies:
“The future looks bright for Lookers. We will turnover more than £4 billion this year. We would like to add more brands to our business but, for us, it’s not about adding scale for scale’s sake.
“The biggest challenge for the future is how we develop, embrace and integrate changing technology to better engage with customers and enable our own colleagues to deliver a seamless, personalised and rewarding customer experience across all touch points.
“We strive to become a retailer and an employer of choice as well as a genuine and authentic business that is appealing and inspiring for customers and colleagues alike.”