LSH Auto UK has seen customers still choose a showroom handover experience since reopening despite offering them the choice of a home delivery.
Martyn Webb is managing director of the firm’s UK car sales business, with LSH operating globally across various industries, and he explained on Car Dealer Live how in 2016 it took over the Birmingham and Manchester market area from Mercedes-Benz Retail.
He appeared on the show live from its Mercedes-Benz Stockport showroom, which is a mammoth 10.5 acres and covers three storeys.
Webb said: ‘The old Stockport business was two acres, and obviously very congested. To then go to 10.5 acres is chalk and cheese really. We have 200 people operating from this site.’
Having this sort of space allows them to display pretty much every car in Mercedes’ vast range, but obviously could cause a drastic need for signage post-lockdown.
For this reason, the team have chosen a more ‘personal touch’, Webb explained, with hosts directing customers from a safe distance instead of markings on the floor.
He said: ‘This environment attracts lots of enquiries and people want to come here.
‘You mentioned weekends, in the traditional landscape I think that was dwindling; people would do a lot more online and would be more specific around appointments.
‘At Stockport and Erdington you see lots of people still arriving on weekends.
‘I think people still want a destination. I think what we have got to recognise is that they need to have fewer of [these destination dealerships]. I think having one big destination and then other supporting businesses who can offer click and collect works.’
Through lockdown the business made it possible for customers to buy a car completely from their website.
However, the vast majority still wanted to get it from the showroom.
‘We did offer a service where we would deliver to people’s doors but the promising thing was that the majority of people wanted to come in and collect their cars,’ said Webb.
‘It’s a really great thing to hear as a retailer is that that’s the part customers still like.
‘We saw very few people wanted their car delivered to their home. They wanted the experience.’
Webb also explained how they had been trying to simplify processes to make it easier for customers. Rather than using the term ‘sales executive’, staff are all ‘customer experience partners’ with either a specialism in aftersales or sales.
The dealership has recently been on the lookout for more staff with the boom in sales since reopening, and Webb commented that, while they weren’t specifically looking for people outside the industry, that it was encouraging it is attracting people from John Lewis, the hotel industry, and more luxury retail businesses.
He added that making these changes isn’t always easy, and said: ‘Trying to get people to adapt to the change and to see the benefits, you have to go through that.
‘For us it’s really important that we try and do the right thing and move the business forward but also we can’t stay still. I think that’s what the bigger destinations allow you to do is compliment the digital platform.’
LSH Auto UK is now trying to be cautious about the rest of the year, despite the strong return, with Webb saying they will never get back those lost sales.
He said: ‘It’s been very confident since we’ve been back but when you look at the numbers it’s hurt us dearly. It’s a bow wave and as much as I’m optimistic, I’m also cautious.
‘I think it’s inevitable that things could get tough in Q4. The great news for us is that we’ve got over 90 per cent of our colleagues back and today we’re trying to fulfil all of our enquiries that we’ve got coming in.
‘We are down, it’s inevitable like every other dealer group and we’re not going to be able to recover the deficit but certainly but it does enable us to tread with caution as we go forward but that we need to be a bit leaner and tighter in our stock holding, for instance, and be aware of the things that could become quite challenging at the end of the year.’