Even though the COVID 19 pandemic hit the country hard, automotive businesses were still deemed important and therefore open for business and service.
We tagged a few jobbers to see how their businesses were affected.
In a small town, Kevin has experienced more retail business. And it’s not that more people are coming into the store, but the ones that come in, buy something! His staff has also altered… he’s hired three new people who ‘changed their career’ because of the virus and are working out just fine!
Kevin also remarked that it now takes longer to ‘do stuff’… takes twice as long to get an answer back, longer to find inventory, special parts. If you need a specialty part, there usually isn’t any inventory and if you phone the person in charge of that line, you find they’re working from home and have no idea if the part is in stock! It’s harder to get parts now… they’re in short supply.
On the good side Kevin tells us, sales are up as is profit!
In the East
In Newfoundland-Labrador, Doug says his installer customers tell him their customers are now more aware of the preparatory work going into the vehicle before servicing—this is a big change. As well, masks and barriers are making communications and interactions more challenging.
More people are coming into our stores rather than having product delivered for some odd reason—we’ve seen a significant increase in retail sales! I’m not complaining but that has also caused us to change and adapt; do a lot of store modifications to ensure physical distancing and interpersonal protection.
Business is up but individuals are still not willing to come back to work because they’re getting paid by the government. I’m having trouble trying to hire people I really need right now because of that! People applying expect about 25% more in salary—more than we can pay and this a big challenge in our industry. In addition, sales people are making less in-shop sales calls.
Government regulations aren’t helping—their rules make it hard for businesses to keep up. Looking out my office window, I now see nothing but walls and windows… before it was open concept. Now it’s all offices costing thousands of dollars to keep staff and customers safe in all our branches. And then there are the inspections! Businesses are trying to survive, operate and conform to the new regulations and safeguards! It’s been very difficult to deal with for management, staff and customers.
From a vendor’s side of things—due to corporate travel restrictions—there is no training, no sales calls, no product promotions, so everyone is missing out on this. That’s very challenging for anyone trying to do business in multiple jurisdictions.
In a regional centre
Allan, in a regional centre, stated that some aspects of our business are different, as is how we go to business. This can be summed up with our company hosting its first Virtual Trade Show to allow for the safety of staff, customers and vendor partners while complying with Government imposed restrictions. We’ve also had a dramatic increase of online orders via our national distributor’s website or our own ordering tool. Using these tools is critical to allow our branches to safely offer essential curbside pickup. E-Commerce has definitely increased!
We’ve also been fortunate to sustain a good business level and still offer good service while at the same time providing solutions to our customer partners. When we re-opened, our walk-in traffic thankfully returned and we’ve stayed busy. I feel that new customers, those who maybe were not as familiar with us and our locations, have returned.
Our unique role as a national brand store and full line electrical distributor allows us to offer different products and solutions to new and long-time customers.
We’re doing the same amount of shop deliveries, with drop-off modifications to keep everyone safe and we have stayed very supportive to all our ASP customers.
Our primary company concern is the safety of our people, their families, our customers, and the public. We continue to monitor the COVID/19 challenge and will adjust as needed to be the best supplier to our customers, and employer to our associates.
From these few jobbers, it seems that retail is playing an important part of their business of today as a result of the pandemic… and no one seems to be able to understand why…. is it because people don’t want parts delivered—they can get it faster if they go into the store… or do they want to go into a store so they can talk to someone? Both of these reasons were hinted at by our jobbers. The virus has certainly left many without means of communication or seeing other human beings! On the other hand, this is good for the jobber… more sales and more profit.
And as we’ve seen, with the Government restrictions and rules, shops have changed somewhat in their layout to keep customers and staff safe regarding the physical distances now required. Deliveries too have changed… curbside pickup, drop-offs… again distance is a requirement re the Government.
To sum up
In looking over what these jobbers have stated, there have been many problems with physical distancing and having to ‘re-arrange’ store layouts and aisles, building offices for the staff at great expense; the extra cost of parts deliveries and handling; the longer time to get the parts needed in many instances, and the very big problem of not having enough necessary staff to make business flow more smoothly mostly because of Government payments and people not wanting to work!
But if we look at all that negativity and then look at what the jobbers are saying… it’s not all that bad and in some cases… like the added retail business… it’s good!