Car-Mart remains in growth mode despite COVID-19 challenges

ROGERS, Ark. – 

America’s Car-Mart is looking to show that COVID-19 won’t deter the chain of buy-here, pay-here dealerships. Coming off a new company record for annual revenue, Car-Mart opened another dealership on Monday after beginning the current fiscal year by relocating its corporate headquarters.

Now based in Rogers, Car-Mart currently operates 149 dealerships after opening the 38th location in its home state of Arkansas. The store in Cabot is to be managed by Dennis Johnson with the assistance of Chris Martin. 

“A great deal of thought and foresight is placed on our decisions about where to grow. We select communities where we believe we can fill a void when it comes to what we offer at Car-Mart,” president and chief executive officer Jeff Williams said in a news release

“We’re different from traditional dealerships. In addition to providing quality, used vehicles we also provide financing and exceptional service after the sale,” Williams continued. :We are committed to providing peace of mind for our customers and we believe communities are better when we are there.”

Cabot is situated less than 30 miles northeast of Little Rock, the capital of Arkansas. This new dealership is located at 177 Arena Road.

“We’re excited about joining the Cabot community. It’s a growing area with a lot of potential,” Johnson said. “At Car-Mart, we offer a unique buying process for our customers where it’s not just a purchase, but an experience. We get to know our customers and work closely with them on flexible financing that meets their needs and budgets.”

Recent annual performance and pandemic-related financial actions

Car-Mart reported that revenue for its 2020 fiscal year came in at a new record of $196 million. The company said it retailed 52,914 vehicles during the fiscal year that ended April 30, representing a 5.3% lift year-over-year.

Chief financial officer Vickie Judy explained several movies Car-Mart made to “ensure financial flexibility during this unprecedented time.” In a news release, Judy noted that the company took a $30 million draw on its revolving credit facility and significantly reduced expenses during the last half of the fourth quarter, including part-time and hourly payroll as well as other non-associate related expenses. 

As a result of these efforts, Judy said Car-Mart closed its fiscal year with a cash balance of $59.6 million and its debt, net of cash, to finance receivables stood at 25.1%, compared to 27.8% the end of the prior fiscal year. 

“We have also taken advantage of deferring the employer share of Social Security payroll taxes as permitted under the CARES Act,” Judy said. “Although we reduced hours for certain associates, we are happy to say these measures have allowed us to maintain workforce engagement with no disruption to associate benefits. 

Judy also mentioned Car-Mart increased its allowance for credit losses from 24.5% to 26.5% resulting in an $11.7 million pre-tax charge to the provision in the fourth quarter.

“For the safety of our customers and associates, we suspended certain collection activities, including personal visits and repossession efforts, for a period of time during the pandemic,” Judy said. “This resulted in a lower amount of net charge-offs as a percent of average finance receivables for the quarter. 

“However, COVID-19 has impacted our customers and resulted in increased past-due amounts as a percentage of receivables, resulting in uncertainty of how customers pay and react in this new environment,” she continued. “We are very focused on working with our customers to keep them in their vehicle and on the road.”

Moves to keep retail activities in motion

To keep dealerships active, Williams also highlighted that Car-Mart launched curbside and home delivery as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He mentioned the company also increased its digital efforts, “which included expanding communications channels with our customers to ensure they know how much we care about them individually.”

Williams said, “In our nearly 40 years of business, we have weathered many storms, but through them all, we were steadfast in our focus on the customer experience, ‘Keeping our Customers on the Road and giving them Peace of Mind.’ Our commitment to our customers has never been stronger, and during these challenging times, we moved even closer to our customers and united together as a family. We are a small-town character lender and really stepped up and walked the walk by truly living out our company’s mission, vision, and values in our daily work.

“Our company has most certainly prioritized the safety and well-being of our associates and customers during the pandemic. We will continue to be diligent and aggressive in educating ourselves and our team members on ways to help prevent or reduce the risk of exposure to the virus,” Williams went on to say.

The Car-Mart leader also touched on the performance of the company’s staff and dealership personnel during the pandemic.

“Words can’t express how proud I am of our associates, and how our team continues to rise to the occasion in the face of maybe the greatest healthcare crisis and most certainly the largest financial disruption in the history of our country,” Williams said. “The fact that we deeply understand our company’s purpose is carrying us through this crisis and will set a firm foundation for us to continue our path of serving more customers with great vehicles and excellent customer service. 

“Thank you to our Car-Mart associates for taking care of each other and our customers, and for improving the communities in which we do business,” he continued. “I am grateful for the hard work, dedication, and compassion of our associates. Their caring and compassion is making a real difference in the lives of so many good people facing increased financial and personal challenges in these trying times. I am in awe of the great people we have in this company and I am humbled to be part of the team.”

Details of new company headquarters and future investment

And at least part of that Car-Mart team will be completing its tasks in a new workplace.

Just before after Memorial Day, Car-Mart relocated its corporate office from Bentonville to a larger facility in Rogers to accommodate continued business growth. The new office is located at 1805 N. 2nd Street in the Benchmark Group Building.

“This move represents a significant milestone in the growth and evolution of our company,” Williams said. “We’re growing and we need a bigger space to accommodate our associates, and to foster a more productive work environment.

“For the first time in a long time, we will have all of our corporate associates in the same facility,” Williams continued. “This move will allow us to be more efficient and better serve our dealerships and our growing customer base.  The new location features improved workspaces that will help to facilitate internal and external collaboration and communication.  We’re excited to join the Benchmark Group in their beautiful building and to be a part of downtown Rogers.”

Judy pointed out how Car-Mart made this move without damaging its financial statement. She said the company finished 2020 fiscal year ended by adding $77.9 million in receivables, a repurchased $16.0 million of its common stock, and funded $5.5 million in net capital expenditures, a total of $99.4 million, with only a $4.8 million increase in debt net of cash.

“We will continue to remain focused on cash-on-cash returns and maintaining a strong balance sheet,” Judy added.

Furthermore, Williams mentioned some of the other investment paths Car-Mart might take.

“We will keep investing in our business, including recruiting, training, and retention of quality associates. We will be diligent in improving our operations, with significant emphasis on our vehicle inventory. And we will put a laser focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience. That is why we believe our company’s future is very bright,” Williams said.

“We expect disruptions in the consumer credit markets and in-vehicle supply channels to present positive opportunities for our business and we intend to be ready to leverage our position moving forward.  As we have said, we believe that most of our dealerships can serve 1,000 or more customers over time and we have significant opportunities to gain market share from our existing locations,” he continued.

“In addition, new lot openings and strategic acquisitions are expected to be part of our plan as we move forward. The market we serve is large and our growth will be at a rate that aligns with our ability to serve our customers after the sale at the highest level of service,” he went on to say.

Source Article