Our firm survived Spanish flu, we’ll survive Covid too

The motor industry has dealt with the pandemic, and is ready to roar back into life, says George Mills, Managing Director of Johnson & Perrott Motor Dealerships.
Our firm survived Spanish flu, we’ll survive Covid too

ENDURING: A truck outside Johnson & Perrott’s garage in Emmet Place, Cork city, in 1951

HAVING just recently passed our 210th year in business, Johnson & Perrott is no stranger to disruption.

Since first opening our doors, we have weathered the Irish Famine, two World Wars, a Civil War, the Spanish Flu, several recessions and now Covid.

Founded in 1810, we have grown to represent 10 leading car brands and have four car dealerships in Cork city. In addition, we also have interests in vehicle hire and fleet management.

Like all retailers, we have had to adapt our business operations and facilities to the new reality of working during Covid.

This has included implementing all the Government guidelines around the mandatory use of face masks, temperature checks, social distancing and the use of hand sanitise stations.

To further minimise the risk of Covid spreading, we also ensure that all sales and service vehicles are sanitised and sealed before and after use.

For best results, we sanitise using ozone, which kills 99% of all viruses and bacteria within the vehicle.

Like many other businesses, we have had a difficult year, but we have been fortunate to remain open during the most recent lockdown for service and repair, which are classified as essential services.

Car sales, however, have moved online and this now operates on a click and deliver basis.

Using digital tools such as live video calls and personalised video presentations, we have been able to bring the showroom experience to customers virtually.

Our industry had been moving in this direction for years and the Covid epidemic has further accelerated it.

Fortunately, we were well positioned to embrace it and we now routinely conduct the entire sales process virtually, without even meeting our customers, as all business is conducted remotely.

To aid with social distancing and due to the very nature of our business, we are lucky to have the option and ability to conduct our sales process in an outdoor setting, further reducing the already low risk environment.

We have found that in today’s marketplace, customers tend to have done their research online before arrival and know the car and options they want.

George Mills, Managing Director of Johnson & Perrott Motor Dealerships.
George Mills, Managing Director of Johnson & Perrott Motor Dealerships.

Generally, a customer’s visit to one of our showrooms usually revolves around a desire to test drive before purchase.

With Covid, we expect this trend to become the new normal, with the entire sales process going digital and showroom visits in the future reserved for test drives, collections, and service appointments only.

We are ready to re-open once restrictions are lifted and are confident that we can do so in a manner which ensures the safety of our customers and staff.

Supporting this, in a recent national survey conducted by Behaviour & Attitudes, 75% of the people surveyed said they would be comfortable visiting car dealerships/garages when travel restrictions allowed.

Car dealerships/garages were ranked first out of eight non-essential retailer categories as the most comfortable to visit.

From a health and safety perspective, our industry has proven during the duration of the pandemic that showrooms can operate in a low-risk environment for their employees and customers.

The Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) our Industry representative body, has re-emphasised that motor retail is ready to open when restrictions allow.

Retail in the motor industry is different from other non-essential retail. The large size of dealerships, the low average footfall, the ability to do business on a strict appointment only basis, and the option of displaying cars outside, lends itself to social distancing and safe retailing making car sales very low risk.

Looking to the future, we are optimistic that our industry will recover quickly once restrictions are lifted and Covid brought under control.

We look forward to welcoming customers back to our showrooms, and rest assured that we will continue to adhere to Covid-19 guidelines to ensure that the safety of our customers and employees remains our number one priority.

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