Face coverings in dealerships was the first topic for discussion with Independent Motor Dealers Association chairman Umesh Samani on Car Dealer Live on July 24, as that was the day when England followed in Scotland’s footsteps and it became mandatory for customers to wear them in retail environments.
The multi-award-winning Sumani said he’d had a couple of people in that morning who were wearing them but he reckoned it was probably because they’d been shopping elsewhere already.
He told host James Batchelor that he’d put signs up at his dealership – Specialist Cars of Stoke – advising people that as car showrooms were retail they should be wearing masks, but he added: ‘In reality, I just don’t believe people are geared up to go to car showrooms with masks in mind. I don’t think the message has been put all the way through clearly.
‘With car dealers, since we reopened on 1st June [when dealerships in England were allowed to reopen] every single dealer has taken precautions. We’ve done the distancing, we’ve got screens, we’ve got the sanitisers…so all of a sudden to be thrown this curveball to say masks as well – I just think it’s wrong anyway personally, but we’ve got to comply with what the government says, but I don’t think that’s the thing that people will be thinking about.’
He added that he had masks available to give to customers, as it would give out the wrong message to be forceful in stopping people coming into showrooms.
Samani agreed with Batchelor that it was very much a split debate. ‘How far do you push it? At the end of the day, I’m not going to refuse anybody. The showroom is big enough. I’m not going to get a crowd in there and I think most people aren’t going to get a crowd so I think it’s a step backward really.
‘Having said masks don’t do anything in the first place, then we’ve had all the conflicting stories of good bad good bad and now they’re saying we’ve got to start wearing them. All these mixed messages don’t help anyone in reality, do they?’
Turning to used car sales, the pair remarked on how most people had been reporting strong business.
‘It’s incredible, it really is. At this rate, this is going to be probably the best month in 23 years for me. Phenomenal! So if this is the new normal, can we please stick to this?’ he joked.
‘But I think it might be short-lived,’ he continued. ‘I’m hoping it’s not going to be dropping off the cliff. Everybody’s selling a lot of cars but obviously with that comes a supply situation – the fact that stock is short and everyone’s paying a premium for it…but I’m not sure if the retail demand will continue at the same rate and that scares me a little bit.’
Batchelor made the point that the dealers coming out of lockdown stronger were those that had been able to keep up communication with their customers and Samani said he agreed 100 per cent, adding: ‘A lot of people are still saying to me “Does social media work?” It depends how you measure social media.
‘If you want an instant sale it’s not going to work every time, but to me it’s about number one building a brand, and number two keeping the customers informed what’s going on there, and it’s not about sell, sell, sell, sell, sell you know – that’s another message I’ll say to a lot of people…It’s about having communication and interactions.’
Doing so meant people could build up an image of how a business operated, he said, giving the example that telling them about Covid-19-secure measures that had been taken at Specialist Cars helped build the business brand and instilled confidence in them.
Watch the interview in full by clicking on the main image.
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