Car dealers in Northern Ireland will have to shut their doors to customers again after Stormont announced a circuit-breaker lockdown to help the NHS after a rise in coronavirus infections.
The Northern Ireland executive said last night (Nov 19) that all non-essential retail – which includes showrooms – must close from November 27 to December 11.
It comes just as some retail businesses that had been ordered to close in October were allowed to reopen as of today, meaning they will only be able to operate for a week before closing temporarily again.
After the UK-wide lockdown in the spring, car showrooms in Northern Ireland were allowed to reopen from June 8, and they worked on an appointment-only basis before gradually returning to business as usual.
They weren’t affected by the latest recent restrictions, which were brought in on October 16 for four weeks, then extended and lifted as of today.
However, they will only be able to conduct transactions online once again for a fortnight as of next Friday. Click-and-collect will be allowed on an appointments basis.
Service departments will be allowed to continue operating.
Michael Tomalin, chief executive of vehicle remarketers City Auction Group, told Car Dealer today: ‘It has been somewhat of a challenging week for the industry with the VAT margin scheme being affected by Brexit and now a state of confusion with some retail businesses reopening today for a week and then all non-essential retail closing for a further two weeks from the following Friday.
‘The concerns are that the government guidance from Stormont is not consistent and causing confusion.’
He added: ‘Quite openly, BBC NI are advising this morning the concerns that people will be hitting the shops this week for Christmas gifts prior to the two-week lockdown, causing a further peak in cases.
‘These are challenging times for sure, as quite simply during the run-up to Christmas the digital online-only sales are not gaining the desired results, therefore manufacturers and leasing companies are potentially sitting on stock until the new year, hopeful that things change post the festive period.’
City Auction Group is telling customers that it will be business as usual next week, with physical events supported online.
As of November 27, though, all its events will be purely digital, accessible via smartphone, tablet and desktop.