As Leicester moves into lockdown for a second time, car dealers spoke out about their concerns of how the second wave would unravel recovery efforts.
While the city council finalises its plans for a renewed lockdown strategy, non-essential shops that reopened on the 15th June were asked to close again on the 30th June, following a second spike of coronavirus in the city.
Leicester is home to the headquarters of Sytner Group, which has Audi, BMW, Mini, Porsche, Bentley and Lamborghini franchises in the city. PLC Marshall Motor Holdings (Seat, Skoda and Vauxhall) also has a large presence, as well as Sandicliffe Motor Group (Ford, Kia and Mazda).
Barney Sturgess, the managing director of Leicester-based Sturgess Motor Group, said that he was hopeful his businesses could remain open. He told AM Online:
“We are awaiting clarification but having read the guidance applies to retail businesses opened on June 15, we’re hopeful that car retail sites that opened on June 1 will be okay,” he said.
“The major concern is that this muddies the waters at a time when we were in the recovery phase and successfully building momentum again.
“We’ve been beating the drum to let people know that we’re open for business in recent weeks and this situation really muddies the water. It’s terribly difficult.”
In a report by AM Online, Sturgess said that the group’s PDI centre and Loughborough sites should not be affected at all by Leicester’s new lockdown legislation, which is expected to impact almost 330,000 people, but its Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) site and Fiat and Hyundai multi brand sites in Leicester would be.
Sturgess Motor Group sold its Volvo Car UK franchise in Leicester to follow city retail group TMS Motor Group in October last year.
To date, Sturgess has managed to return 50% of its workforce to the business post-lockdown and the group MD wants to maintain the progress made since England’s showrooms re-opened on 1st June.
He said: “Of course we’ll do all we can to help the authorities suppress this local flair-up and we have already taken stringent measures to ensure our showrooms comply to social distancing and safe trading practices.
“In all honesty, I feel for the entire retail sector in Leicester. It’s hard to believe that it is part of the problem. Footfall in the city centre remains very low and businesses are restricting the number of people entering shops and have worked extremely hard to re-open in a safe manner.”
Fears of a ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 coronavirus across the UK remain among the key concerns for the economy and the car retail sector.
The Vehicle Remarketing Association (VRA) is set to debate the potential impact of a “second wave” and solutions tomorrow.
Earlier this month, meanwhile, iVendi chief executive, James Tew, said that the possibility of further peaks occurring was “very real”, adding that businesses need to think ahead in terms of how they might operate under a renewed lockdown.
“At the moment, dealers are understandably working very hard to get their businesses moving again after the events of the last few months but we’ve all seen the warnings from experts of the likelihood of a second wave, something that is perhaps already happening in countries like South Korea and Iran,” Tew said.
“Of course, the hope is that this does not happen in the UK but many clearly believe that it will and, given that very real possibility, it seems sensible that businesses have some kind of idea about how they might handle a further lockdown.”
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