Sutton sells “super cars” – Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches and the like. “We sell cars which are normally in short supply and have long lead times,” he explains. His business also specialises in “high-class bling”: “If you want spinning rims or Dolby surround-sound in your car, I’m your guy.”
A number of his customers hail from the Middle East. “They bring their cars over to the UK for engine upgrades,” he says. His clients also include “successful lawyers, accountants, entrepreneurs and property dealers who want to reward themselves with a fancy car after clinching a lucrative deal”.
But that’s all changed in the past six months, with sales slipping by 50 per cent. “The market for cars like Ferraris, Bentleys and Aston Martins – anything in the £100k to £150k bracket – has all but dried up,” says Sutton. “Luckily we also sell to a lot of Premiership footballers, who aren’t connected to the credit crunch in the way that normal people are.”
Last year, Sutton pulled in sales of £14m. This year, he expects that to drop to £9m.
To weather the storm, Sutton is looking at new revenue streams. “I set up a separate business called motorati.co.uk just over a year ago, which matches car buyers with dealers. It’s rather like a dating service – but candidates aren’t trying to find romance, they’re trying to find cars.”
So far 386 dealers have signed up to motorati.co.uk. Sutton takes a £200 cut every time a car is sold through the site. “At the moment, my new business doesn’t make money, it costs money. But I reckon we’ll go into the black in the next 12 months.
Read Clive Sutton’s columns here.