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How do local lockdowns affect customer behaviour and will new government restrictions put off car buyers?

Time 12 months ago

As the UK grapples with the concept of local lockdowns springing up on a regular basis, car dealers have had to adapt issues outside of their control.

Putting the national lockdown to one side, the motor retail sector has been able to largely operate as normal despite local coronavirus flare-ups –  but there have been interruptions.

Auto Trader held a special webinar on the topic where directors from the business discussed how local lockdowns were affecting dealers and what they did to consumer behaviour.


The business compared Leicester and Greater Manchester – two areas that were put into lockdown but fared differently thanks to the nature and severity of the restrictions.

What happened in Leicester?

Leicester was the first place in the UK to be put into local lockdown on June 30 and businesses didn’t start to reopen until August 19.

‘Leicester was the harshest where we saw restrictions as there were business closures – not necessarily automotive retailers – and a lot of restrictions to peoples movements,’ said Auto Trader’s data & insight director, Richard Walker, in the webinar.

‘The most immediate thing here is that share of car dealer stock decreased, which is undoubtedly a reaction from the retailers in that they were distracted by what was going on in their local environment, and weren’t doing what they normally do – especially as this climbs over the next few days.’


Walker said the consumer reaction – advert views, leads and interactions was all in-line with stock.

He added: ‘What’s interesting, however, is the leads and interactions share improves slightly, which does suggest consumers went back to that behaviour we saw during the lockdown of going a little further down the buying journey and using digital as a contact with dealers.’

What happened in Manchester?

Greater Manchester, meanwhile, was put under a wider lockdown geographically but with different restrictions – and that shows in the Auto Trader data.

The area had restrictions on people meeting, particularly in households and gardens, while there were some business closures.

‘The share of stock was actually growing as the area went into the restrictions,’ said Walker.

‘There wasn’t anything hugely business impacting in anything that was put in place – and that’s reflected in the stock share.

‘It looks like it was business as usual for retailers in this area and as a result there’s no real impact on the ad, leads and interaction numbers.’

During the webinar, Walker remarked Dumfries and Galloway had travel restrictions during lockdown and the ads, leads and interactions were similar in nature to Leicester.

Locked down areas still want to buy cars

Despite local lockdowns, concerns about the wider economy and new government restrictions, car buyers still want to transact, Auto Trader revealed during the presentation.

A new survey carried out by the firm polled 590 car buyers and asked them: ‘The government announced new Covid-19 restrictions on September 22, has this affected your decision to purchase a new vehicle?’

Nearly 61 per cent of the people polled said the new restrictions will not put them off from buying a car.

Some nine per cent said it had, 4.5 per cent said they want to buy a car quicker, while a quarter of respondents said they weren’t sure.

Stephen Leatherbarrow, performance partner at Auto Trader, said: ‘It’s clear both retailers and consumers are quickly adapting to this new way of working.


‘It’s reassuring to see the recent announcements are not making consumers wobble.’

The webinar also focused on the importance of dealers adhering to the legal requirement for dealers to install new QR code Track and Track signage, allowing customers to check into a dealership.

Rebecca Clark, sales director, said: ‘We very much urge dealers to take the opportunity within portal to make clear to consumers the measures you have as a retailer have put in place.

‘It’s more important than ever to give the trust and the confidence that you are a retailer they will be safe doing business with.

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‘It could also be that some customers may notice the dealers who don’t do this and may move onto another dealer that does do this.’

Clark also encouraged dealers to make good use of live video and if home delivery is available to make that clear in the car’s advert.

Click the video at the top of the page to watch the whole webinar.

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer.

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