Car dealership chain Lookers swung to a £50 million loss in 2020 as Covid-19 forced its showrooms to close for large parts of the year.

The company said its pre-tax loss followed a profit of £19.6m in 2019.

It was a big hit for the business, which also saw a 40 per cent fall in revenue to a little over £1.6 billion in the financial year, down from £2.6bn a year earlier.

But Lookers signalled that it had seen a more hopeful second half, and expects performance over the last six months to be ahead of 2019, partly offsetting the awful first half.

“Trading in the second half of 2020 was encouraging, underpinned by significant outperformance of the retail UK new car market, continued resilient trading in used and aftersales, and increasing used car margins,” the business said.

It is also set to make some financial gains from a restructuring programme, which included closing 12 showrooms and making 1,500 people redundant.

Chief executive Mark Raban said: “2020 was a challenging year for Lookers, managing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and a number of legacy issues facing the group, which required significant action to restructure and improve the business for the long term.

“Despite a resilient sales performance, the benefit of government support and prompt action taken to manage costs, in the first half we incurred a significant loss in a very difficult period for the car retail industry.”