During the First National Lockdown ASE Professional Services carried out a survey of nearly 200 dealerships asking them a range of questions about their experiences.
Given the imposition of a second lockdown in England and similar limited lockdowns in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it may be helpful to refresh dealerships with what was highlighted in the results of the survey in order to assist dealerships as they consider how best to operate in the coming weeks.
On 23rd March 2020, dealerships were enjoying a successful Quarter 1 with good sales results. Many dealerships had considerable used stock and were concerned about the levels of stock and the need to generate cash.
By the end of September 2020, most dealerships reported strong sales and service department results during Quarter 2 and Quarter 3 with many dealerships reporting record sales and high cash reserves.
Because of the significant difference between dealerships on 23 March 2020 and 5 November 2020, some of the findings in the survey need to be read and understood in context.
The survey was divided into 12 sections. Key findings are highlighted below. To read the full report, please contact us at email@example.com
- The lockdown was predominantly related to sales department with service departments either remaining open or reopening shortly afterwards
- Customer reaction was very supportive of the closure and in general the lockdown was carried out with minimum commercial disruption
- Social media, website, call centre the use of videos to inform staff and customers was significantly increased with most dealerships actively promoting the business very successfully
- Sales levels dropped but sales did take place by way of a click and collect service
- Enquiry levels continued to exist and were farmed by dealerships using technology
- Car values were maintained and in some cases increased as stock was in short supply
- Used car values increased and margins were maintained and in some cases considerable better
- Staff were very concerned and most importantly worried whether there would be a job to return to post lockdown.
- Furlough payments from HMRC were critical to the business and to the morale of staff.
- Staff communications were very much a focus of dealerships in order to ensure that staff were comfortable about the lockdown and the return to work whenever that might occur
- Dealerships reported the lockdown to be consistent locally but did report differences in terms of re-opening both in terms of service departments and in terms of sales departments.
- Overall dealerships were satisfied they had done their best to maximise opportunity and minimise lost opportunity but all reported that they should have prepared and indeed returned to work sooner than they did.
- All dealerships reported structural efficiency changes and redundancies and post lockdown few have recruited staff to replace those lost.
- Most businesses took advantage of furlough funds, tax (VAT and PAYE) deferrals and Covid loans. In some case dealerships reported that they used all of the options available.
- The conversion of stock to cash was the great crusade of late spring and summer 2020 and this was a very successful journey for most dealerships. Dealerships in general find themselves at “cash highpoints” at the time of the current lockdown.
- Stock funding is underutilised today and provides valuable cash for dealerships; the difficulty is matched by an absence of product across many manufacturer ranges.
Bank and Long Term Finance Providers
- Bank support was patchy and most dealers were uncomfortable with bank finance where the option to extend overdraft was often offered as the only solution.
- Manufacturers, who themselves were under enormous pressure, were supportive.
- Support was not necessarily provided in a positive way with cash. Support was often more indirect by way of a deferment of costs (capital and interest), guaranteeing bonuses (which in reality proved unnecessary as sales performance increased) as well other ancillary costs (marketing, Covid help etc).
Changes and Lessons learned during lockdown
- Technology flooded into dealerships during lockdown and it is clear that these changes are permanent (“clicks not bricks”)
- Property investment has been reconsidered; the nature and value of the showroom, the ability to carry out back off work on line, centralising work where possible. A common phrase y=used by dealers during and post lockdown was “less is more”.
Restart post Lockdown
- Dealers were anxious to restart but manty did not spend time preparing to restart. Those that did gained immediate advantage other their competition and this advantage has not been recovered.
Comment and Conclusions
- The lockdown in March did not damage dealerships; if anything, the lockdown was a catalyst for changes that have improved process and overall business efficiency outcomes.
- The survey noted that a second lockdown might be one crisis to many for some dealerships and that this might result in many smaller dealerships looking more seriously at their future and where they might be over the next few months.
- The concern for us all is that the current lockdown, due to expire on 1 December 2020, has already be foreshadowed by announcements that the furlough scheme will operate until 31 March 2020.
- If this proves to be the case, and whilst accepting that businesses might be able with furlough to survive in their current state until spring, the question is whether consumer confidence having endure almost 12 months of lockdown, will re –emerge.
- Although entirely different culturally as a nation, the economic downturn in Japan in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s dampened down consumer demand which has not recovered as individuals take a more narrow and conservative view of their needs and requirements.
- It is unlikely this will emerge in the UK given the higher consumer value for such products as cars but the immediate future may be a slowdown that will require dealerships to refocus again.
If you would like to read the full report, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org