USING ALL THE TOOLS AVAILABLE
Both government provided and self generated
by Service Dealer Editor, Steve Gibbs
 
Steve Gibbs

How has the past week been? It seems odd that Easter has been and gone, considering how that's usually such a significant date in the industry's calendar.

The impression which we're getting at Service Dealer, through our contacts and our regular video conference calls, is that perhaps matters have found their levels for the time being (however long that will be?!).

We spoke to manufacturers, business service suppliers and trade associations again this week, with another video call with dealers set up for this coming Wednesday. These sessions are proving so incredibly helpful for us to gain a sense of how the industry is coping and finding its way through this extraordinary time.

 



I hope I'm right in also saying, that the conversations are helpful for all the participants. Similar to the benefits which attendees gain from the Service Dealer Conference, I get the impression that sharing experiences with peers and colleagues and listening to how friends are coping in these chats, is genuinely helpful.

 

The session this week allowed Service Dealer to feedback to the industry representatives on the call, some of the issues that we had heard from dealers when we held our conference call with them last week. We raised concerns that some dealers voiced to us about what help might be forthcoming from the manufacturers this season. Also mentioned was how important it was for the network to be kept informed about what plans companies have for both now and going forward.

Another incredibly important subject which was raised again this week was that of furloughing staff. This is a fast-moving area, comprising of details which the government keeps adding to and adapting. So it's incredibly important that dealers keep checking the official guidelines which can be found here - as well as seeking specialist advice where they need it.

To help, our SME Digest editor Adam Bernstein, today presents a summary of how employers might maximise their prospects of a successful claim to the government's scheme, which you can read here.

 

Also, don't forget that BAGMA have an incredibly useful Coronavirus Hub on their website where they are regularly updating members and non-members alike, on matters such as furloughing plus other support measures which are available.

However complex, yet necessary, it may be to get one's head around the minutia surrounding furloughing, it could prove to be an absolutely vital tool to see many companies through this situation.

One area which cropped in discussion this week for example, where there had been some confusion around the small print of furloughing, was whether an employee who had been furloughed, was able to carry out any paid-work for another company? For example could a worker get some temporary paid work in their local supermarket, or picking fruit in a farmers field?

The answer to this is that yes, you can do paid work for another company other than your own if you are furloughed. The only problem might be, if your contract of employment says you cannot - and then the problem could be with the employer, not the government. The worker wouldn't be contravening the scheme's rules.

Furloughing is without doubt taking place within our sector. Some manufacturers on our call this week had furloughed staff and we know some dealers have already. If you are company that hasn't looked into whether it's right for you yet, it would be worth your while doing so. A strong message coming out of our call was that any business choosing to use the system must not feel any sort of stigma attached to furloughing whatsoever.

Right now it's all about managing the situation which is in front of us and that means utilising all the business tools which are at our disposal.

The portal for applying for furloughing grants is planned to be opened on Monday. The word is that HMRC has been going through pre-launch checks with the system, but of course the real test will be when it goes live. It's so important that once it does launch, that it is able to cope with what will be presumably be a phenomenal demand. After that, it’s vital that it can actually get cash into the accounts of businesses who need it to cover the costs of their staff as soon as possible.

We shall see what happens and Service Dealer would always be interested to hear from our readers if they want to drop us line to let us know what their experiences with the system are.

In some encouraging news, we heard from manufacturers and suppliers that, on the whole, the supply chain has held up pretty well under the circumstances. No significant interruptions were cited, as it seems like the actual manufacturing end of things around the world has kept up to a surprising degree.

 

Where there have been issues, has not so much been in production, rather in transportation. Locally, driver numbers are understandably down, logistics companies might have fewer lorries out on the road and internationally, bottlenecks can be caused at borders. All situations which are understandable (although perhaps not so much for that persistent customer, phoning for the 29th time today to see if their mower is ready yet!).

Interestingly, what we also heard was that perhaps a few more dealers, who might have initially shut down completely a few weeks ago, have started working in some capacity again. Where the ballpark figure when we last spoke, was that perhaps 70% of OPE dealers were closed, that may well be revised now to around 60% shut.

Again, we were told that dealers with a strong online presence are doing well because the demand is certainly there amongst domestic consumers. There was also talk though, that it was not only dealers with sophisticated e-commerce systems who were finding successful and safe ways of working. Remote ordering via phone, followed up with collection or delivery from a safe distance is taking place it seems.

For dealers who feel that trading in some form is right for their business currently, it was hoped that the strong customer service which is on show, would be remembered by customers once we're out the other side of this. It's hopefully not about a race to the bottom in terms of who's got the lowest prices online, rather it's local businesses serving their customers as best and as safe as they can.

Hopefully what might well come out of all this, is that consumers will value the service they receive from their retailer higher than ever before. There's no denying that right now, we're all getting more used to ordering from home and either having goods delivered or we collect from the premises – and it appears likely that demand for this will continue to thrive in the future.


For the servicing dealer, with those prized utilities which an online-only business will never have – expertise and a workshop - it seems that further integration of internet offerings with a traditional bricks and mortar business, will be the blend required for the post-covid age.

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EDITOR'S BLOG
USING ALL THE TOOLS AVAILABLE
NEWS
INDUSTRY THINK TANK RECONVENES
RIPON FARM SERVICES PRODUCE COVID-19 SUPPORT VIDEO
AEA APPOINTS PRESIDENT-ELECT
BAGMA RETURN TO SERVICE DEALER CONFERENCE
MARTIN LISHMAN JOIN FORCES WITH BFS
CLASS UK OPEN NEW PARTS CENTRE
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