A survey launched last week by The Parts Alliance seeking garage views on the COVID-19 pandemic impact has drawn an unprecedented level of response.
The survey which opened on Thursday 2nd April was closed on Tuesday 7th April after gaining 550 responses.
“We launched the digital survey on last week’s AutoTorque news bulletin and achieved coverage on Garage Wire on Friday too,” said Simon Moore, Head of Marketing at The Parts Alliance. “To get such a tremendous level of response from the trade has been hugely helpful.”
The survey primarily asked customers about their plans for opening hours and the prime concerns they have during the crisis. Questions delved further into the response of local communities and their view of government policy.
Most garages expected trading conditions to worsen over the next 2 weeks but a two thirds majority intended to remain open to keep cars moving. Just under a third of garages had closed. Of the remaining two thirds most were already offering a reduced service, with only a minority expecting to be fully open in two weeks time.
“We’ve found far more plan to partially open that to completely close,” said Simon. “This typically means adapting with reduced opening hours, skeleton staff or undertaking more limited types of work.”
By far the biggest reason for closure was simply lack of work. The overwhelming majority cited reduced custom as the main reason, with less than half closing due to staff safety concerns. Less than a third saw parts availability being a major issue at this stage.
The decision by government to extend MOTs due after 31st March by 6 months was the prime reason for garages low expectations over work volumes. Associated financial concerns over their ability to pay bills were also expressed by over half of respondents.
Comments around the dangers of this MOT extension were expressed by many: “Stopping the MOT for 6 months has made a difficult situation for us to survive as a business impossible.”
Some detailed analysis from garage owner comments covered issues around delays in government support and the gaps in rate relief due to garages not being classified as retail businesses.
“Medium sized businesses will not survive unless there’s a high capital reserve,” added one garage owner. “Borrowing will not cover the gap as it will only create unsustainable overheads when the business is fully operational again – which could be months.”
The Parts Alliance thanks all garages for taking time to complete the survey.
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