SDC Trailers is working “flat out” to fulfil new orders created by demand from the internet retail sector, as online shopping during the pandemic continues to grow, and by the recent demise of rival trailer manufacturer Cartwright Group.

The company is predicting this latest boost to its order book, combined with moves to streamline production and reduce overheads, will help improve on its latest set of financial results for the year to 29 December 2019, which saw the company’s pre-tax profit fall by more than half.

Despite a rise in turnover to £176.2m in the period (2018: £175.2m), the trailer manufacturer saw pre-tax profits fall to £2.7m (2018: £6m).

Speaking to MT, SDC Trailers president Paul Bratton, who took the helm in January 2020, said the company’s performance had suffered from the impact of Brexit on exchange rates which has driven up component and material prices.

He said: “Since 2016 the exchange rate has only been going one way and that is putting prices up. If you look at our EBITDA and our competitors EBITDA you can see we are all in the same situation.”

Bratton said the company, which has manufacturing bases in Toomebridge, Magherafelt, Antrim and Mansfield and counts major hauliers, supermarket chains and hire companies among its clients, has made a number of structural changes to weather the impact.

He said: “We know we need to be better, leaner and slicker, so we have streamlined production, cut our product range, designed products that are easier to build and reduced overheads. We have brought administration costs down and also cut 42 non- manufacturing jobs.”

Bratton said the company’s fortunes have also been boosted by rising demand from the internet retail and dotcom sector which has seen a leap in online shopping during the pandemic.

“We are confident our results will be better next year,” Bratton predicted. “We are working flat out building trailers this year and our figures are already better than this time last year, despite the pandemic.”

Demand has been boosted so significantly, Bratton said, that the company has expanded temporarily into a new facility owned by parent group CIMC facility in Southampton, where it is building box vans.

SDC Trailers has also recently picked up an order for 300 curtain siders and box vans from a rental and leasing company that had been a client of the Cartwright Group, which went into administration this week.

Whilst SDC has benefitted from picking up orders from Cartwright’s demise, Bratton cautioned that Cartwright Group’s failure could have reverberations in the sector.

“We are not dancing in the street. When this happens customers can become cautious and wonder if other trailer firms are in trouble which can make them hold back on new orders – particularly as the whole sector has been hit by exchange rate cuts and now by the pandemic.

“However Cartwright made around 2,500 trailers a year and so there is a gap in the market to fill.”