SCOTLAND’S machinery market has been hit by a massive shock-wave from John Deere in decisions which change the landscape for it north of the Border.

The lucrative Aberdeenshire and Highland franchise rights have been handed to Forfar-based Netherton Tractors after long-time green and yellow dealer, HRN, first refused to give up the rights to sell in Perthshire, then walked away from its rights to being a JD dealer further north because it was being forced to relinquish its Balbeggie-based franchise, it said this week.

Last week, following an earlier announcement that Netherton Tractors was to take over JD’s agricultural and homeowner equipment franchise in the Perth and Kinross area, a further expansion of the dealership’s territory was confirmed further north, to cover that formerly covered by HRN, which will cease selling the brand at the end of October.

That means that, as of November 1, 2020, the Netherton Group will also operate from two new outlets in Turriff, Aberdeenshire, and Nairn, Highland, replacing HRN in that region. This will bring the total number of Netherton group branches to five, including the two established businesses at Forfar, in Angus, and Glenrothes, in Fife, and the new operation in Perth.

“Since Netherton Tractors joined the John Deere agricultural dealer network in 1987, it has grown the business to become one of our best performing dealerships,” said John Deere’s division sales manager, Chris Meacock.

“It is well known and appreciated for delivering a very high standard of customer service and support. We are, therefore, delighted that this latest expansion into the north of Scotland will enhance the customer experience of our advanced technology product range.”

Netherton’s general manager, Garry Smith, added: “This latest expansion into the north of the country represents another considerable investment in our business, and we very much look forward to establishing a positive presence in the region as soon as possible.”

However, it looks like there will be a ripple effect from the dropping of HRN in the north as it remains a considerable force in the area and has established a thriving second hand machinery business both in its home market and abroad. It has seven outlets in total, at Turriff, Kinloss, Muir of Ord, Caithness, Stirling (Agritrac Exports) and Balbeggie, with the HQ at Insch, in Aberdeenshire.

This has led to speculation that another major tractor/combine/forage harvester manufacturer will snap up the Barclays’ HRN operation, which began in 1980 after being set up by the late Harry Barclay and his son, Neil. In the 1980s, the late Harry also began Netherton Tractors with son, also Harry and Sharmans, in the East Midlands, with a third son, Roger. Incidentally, Sharmans also lost its John Deere dealership at the end of 2019.

Stuart Barclay, Neil’s son who runs the highly successful Agritrac Exports business near Stirling, told The SF: “It’s not true that the John Deere franchise for further north was ‘awarded’, it came about because we gave it up. The fact is we were asked to sacrifice our Balbeggie depot – and by implication, its staff – to another dealership.

“We were not prepared to do that, both for the sake of our great staff and loyal customer base. In that area, we had boosted the market share for John Deere up to 46%. In fact, when my father started HRN in 1980, John Deere had a market share of 2% in Scotland and it now has an average of more than 30% – which we very much helped to build,” said Mr Barclay.

Adding that he was confident for the future of HRN – which has around 100 staff – Mr Barclay said that the business was actively in negotiations with other major manufacturers keen to make a presence in the areas HRN covered. This had been held up by Covid-19 lockdown, but was now progressing at pace. It also holds franchises for several other well-known brand names.

John Deere has been pursuing a strategy of creating ‘super dealers’ across Europe during the past year, requiring them to reach a target of £50m turnover – a figure which few dealers in Scotland can hope to achieve.