Less than 12% of the UK's franchised car dealerships were “fully staffed” amid signs that customer confidence was continuing to steadily increase at the start of July.
The National Franchised Dealers Association’s (NFDA) second post-lockdown Automotive Retail Survey indicated that, although just 11.8% of showrooms were fully staffed by July 2, customers were picking up the phone to make enquiries and feeling more at ease in the showroom environment.
Over 100 franchised operators responded to the latest survey – conducted between June 29 and July 2 – with the majority, 46.53%, indicating that their facilities were staffed to 50 to 74% as they balanced their workforce’s return from the Government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
But that could be set to change as customers return to the market, with sustained demand seemingly strongest in the used car sector.
Commenting on the survey results, NFDA director, Sue Robinson, said: “Despite the significant challenges caused by over two months of lockdown, dealers showed encouraging signs from the first trading weeks since dealers reopened in the UK, including an increase in online enquiries and sales.
The NFDA’s survey found that most dealers saw an increase in online sales enquiries (80.2%), as well as online sales (66.7%) during the first two weeks after lockdown measures were eased in England’s car showrooms at the start of June.
Three weeks later, fewer dealers reported a rise in new car online enquiries (55.6%) as well as new car online sales with only one-in-four saying they have sold more cars online.
However, in the used sector, 83.2% of dealers saw a larger volume of online enquiries and 55.45% saw an increase in online used car sales.
Customer enquiries seem to be shifting slowly back towards the phone lines after dealerships began to reopen.
The NFDA found that more than half of dealers saw a surge in phone enquiries from potential customers prior to visiting dealerships, with slightly more dealers experiencing a moderate or considerable increase in phone enquiries at the end of June (65%) compared with earlier in the month (60%).
In response to the question “Are customers wanting to spend less time in the showroom?”, the balance has shifted in a positive fashion in the space of a fortnight.
The NFDA’s initial survey – conducted between June 8 and June 11 – found that 50% of customers had shown a desire to spend less time in the showroom.
Two weeks later that percentage had fallen to 41.6%, with 52.5% seemingly happy to spend time in the dealership environment (up from 40.22%).
Robinson said: “Positively, the majority of dealers reopened as soon as they could and reported that all customers are accepting the changes to the standard operational procedures allowing retailers to continue to do business safely and smoothly.
“NFDA will continue to ask for retailers’ feedback over the coming weeks as it is vital that we monitor the health of our sector to ensure it receives the support it needs going forward.”