MUCH has changed since Furness Park Motors was established in 1966. But one thing has remained the same - the company’s determination to deliver a first-class experience for its customers.
WHEN Alan Stoker first established Furness Park in Barrow more than 50 years ago, his sales model was simple; good quality, low mileage family cars at competitive prices as an alternative to new.
Selling vehicles was in the family’s blood. The previous generation to Alan had already established a successful franchised dealership in the town.
Little did he know, as Ford Cortinas and Morris 1000s were sold from his forecourt for around £450, that half a century later, the business he had established in partnership with his father, Deric, would be a third generation family business.
With Alan’s sons Brad and Glenn joining in the early to mid 1990s, and more recently his two eldest grandsons Ben and Jack, aged 19 and 17 respectively, coming into the fold, the focus is now on the future as the business continues to evolve.
Alan said: “The priorities have never changed since day one. The most important people in the business are the retail customers and of course, all of our loyal staff who have helped Furness Park enjoy success over the years.
“We were the first car dealership in the area to fully understand that customer care, good courtesy cars and an attention to detail were of great benefit and hugely appreciated by the customer. Even in those days, we set out to try to be better than franchised dealers.
“That is still the case. We put ourselves in the position of the client and think how would we like to be treated. That applies to every customer, whether they are buying a £5,000 car or a £50,000 car. My word is my bond has held in good stead for over 50 years in business and if I can pass only one message to my grandchildren it would be that.”
The business model in 2018, while still founded on the principles Alan instilled in 1966, is very different.
Today a huge range of vehicles, from jaw-dropping supercars to family saloons, and everything in between, is sold from a larger Furness Park site, still on the town’s arterial route, Abbey Road, but nearer to the town centre.
The customer base has changed too, however, the local market remains of huge importance to the family, with some of Alan’s original customers still dealing with the business, along with their children and grandchildren.
But with the advent of technology and the internet, car sales have become a national - and international - business for the 30-strong Furness Park team.
Every week vehicles are delivered across the UK and it is not uncommon for them to be shipped globally.
It all happens from the base in Barrow, which is also home to a thriving service and MOT department which looks after thousands of customers cars a year.
Glenn said: “Furness Park has been good at adapting to clear blue waters. The clear blue waters we always look for are when we need to react.
“So for example when car supermarkets came along and took on the volume market it was impossible to compete due to geographical location so we knew we had to evolve as a business.
“It’s then a case at looking at other models in the market and looking at ways to adapt and improve them.
“If you can do that, and as long as you have got honour, do what you say you are going to do and follow through on your promises, you have a good chance. So we evolve to flourish and push the business forward to a new level.
“The sourcing of stock within impeccable provenance is vital to our business model with contacts built over many years within the Porsche, Bentley and other high-end franchise dealerships who only offer their own brands for retail.
“This allows Furness Park the opportunity to select very special individual vehicles. We are mindful that only the best will suffice, with our clients having the same philosophy.
“My dad, my brother Brad and I compete to source the finest examples across the country. Each car is selected with our client's demands at the forefront.
“Finding a wonderful car is hugely enjoyable for ourselves as well as our clients, as we can imagine the process and pleasure of our client in selecting their purchase. It is a privilege to be involved in such a process.
“Distance is no barrier to our clients as we offer free nationwide delivery or overnight accommodation at a local luxury hotel. Similarly, we do not take distance into consideration with our sourcing. We travel the length and breadth of the country to find one special car and we are grateful that our clients often do the same.
“Looking forward, we are delighted the boys are coming through. They are really thriving and enjoying the interaction with our clients.
“They love what we sell, are huge car fans and it will be my pleasure to work with them as they get to know every area of the business and build it for the future.”