D&E Coaches proudly celebrated its 25th anniversary on March 25, 2021. It was launched by husband and wife Donald and Elizabeth Mathieson – the D & E in the title – from the driveway of their Inverness home with a minibus. Donald was a bus driver who spotted a gap in the market and began what is now the Highlands’ largest private hire coach company.

Donald’s parents helped with the driving as D & E invested in a second and then third minibus and then acquired their first coach. After five years of dedicated work, turnover reached £220,000 which reached £500,000 by year ten and the £1 million barrier was broken in 2008 and reached £5 million last year.

D & E now has 64 coaches, including six recently refurbished to meet the latest wheelchair accessibility standards.It has four yards one of which is its headquarters, on more than two acres of Longman industrial estate. The business now commands 80 per cent of the Highland private hire market. It has 35 school run contracts with Highland Council.

The business is family owned, with Donald as managing director and their son and two daughters are all directors.  Gayle is Operations Manager while Amy is Office Manager and Bryan is in charge of Driver Responsibilities.

As Member of the Week, we aim, as an example to others, to highlight the positivity which has taken us through a challenging 12 months, and send the signal that D & E Coaches is fully equipped and motivated to undertake new and existing business.

 D & E Coaches lost 6,000 cruise passenger line bookings almost overnight when Covid-19 happened and it’s tourism-related activity was also wiped out. The company had invested £3.5 million on new coaches, including state of the art low-emission coaches,  in the two years before coronavirus struck.

But while others in the sector failed to survive, D & E’s resilience, and its strength as a family business, has seen it successfully emerge from the difficult period. This has proved that the fundamentals of the business are right and that it can continue to offer a valued service to Highland groups and communities.

D & E Prestige,  a premium hire car division established in 2018, caters for the chauffeur drive, wedding, sports, social and VIP airport transfer markets. This division can even provide a wedding piper and makeup artist. A Rolls Royce Phantom is amongst its elite vehicle fleet.

The coach hire business is the regular carrier for Ross County FC, Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC and Highland Rugby Club and is available for golf parties and transport to special occasions and events. Our experienced team of drivers and mechanics give us a well-merited reputation for reliability and comfort.

 The plan now is for a cautious but growing return towards  ‘normal’ business levels, against a backdrop of continuing and refining the strict safety regime which has been put in place, including using anti-virus ‘mist’ in our coaches. We were firmly in growth mode before Covid-19 and intend to identify and secure a fresh volume of business. The signs are very promising. This is an opportunity to recommit to customer care and endeavour to take our reputation for it to even greater levels.  The personal touch is vital to us.

D & E Coaches is the reigning Highlands and Islands Family Business of the Year and has recently been congratulated on its achievements by Fergus Ewing, Scottish Government Minister for the Rural Economy and Tourism. D & E Prestige is the current Scottish Wedding Transporter of the Year.

Inverness Chamber asked us what we value most about our membership: “The business insights offered by the Chamber are important, as is the opportunity to work with other local companies who share our community focus. We encourage members to support the Chamber events to take advantage of the range of networking opportunities and business material. Stewart and his team are a valuable resource.”

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