UK automotive retailer Pendragon has released its results for the first quarter of 2021, revealing a strong performance despite persistent dealership closures across the group.

The firm revealed an underlying profit before tax of £10.8m, an increase of £13.1m when compared to the first quarter of 2020 which posted a loss of £2.3m.

Like-for-like operating profit was also up by 68.5%, reaching £19.5m while like-for-like gross profit was down 0.9%. Operating costs and interest also declined by 11.6% year-on-year.

Bill Berman, chief executive of Pendragon, commented on the benefits of the Group’s omni-channel offering: “Building on the progress made in 2020, our online capabilities continue to gain momentum as we advance our strategy, and this has contributed to a resilient sales performance in the period.

Pendragon operates over 160 sites across the UK under the brands of Evans Halshaw, Stratstone and Car Store, offering new and used vehicles as well as providing aftercare services.

The franchise also provides software solutions to the automotive industry through Pinewood Technologies, as well as fleet and leasing through Pendragon Vehicle Management and wholesale vehicle parts via Quickco.

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Across Franchised UK Motor, operating profit grew by 240.6% to £13m when compared to Q1 in 2020, while Pinewood operating profit was also up by 13.7% to £3.4m. Pendragon Vehicle Management was up 35.1% at £3.7m, with growth largely driven by improved residual values on end of lease disposals.

Berman continued: “I am particularly proud of how our associates have responded to the changing environment, displaying their commitment to deliver a high-quality customer experience despite the difficult environment.”

The development of the group’s digital capabilities provided a high degree of protection against the physical closure of stores, with over 40,000 vehicles delivered in the quarter against a prior year like-for-like comparison of approximately 45,000 vehicles.

Aftersales facilities remained open during the quarter and delivered a good performance, with like-for-like revenue down just 2%.

This decline was offset by improved gross margin rates benefitting from ongoing efficiency gains, resulting in an increase of 0.3% in like-for-like gross profit.

Remaining “cautiously optimistic” about the remainder of the financial year, Berman concluded: “With the easing of Covid-19 restrictions and the reopening of non-essential retail last week, we are delighted to be welcoming back customers to our dealerships, and we are well positioned for the important trading period we have ahead of us.”