Showrooms should maintain Covid protocols or risk losing half of their customers

This is the latest report in a series of weekly updates for industry colleagues from Rachael Prasher, managing director of What Car? and Haymarket Automotive. Quoted poll data is from more than 1500 whatcar.com users.

55% of buyers said they would avoid visiting showrooms with no social distancing in place

With fuel supply issues and microchip shortages prominent in the headlines, it’s easy to forget that Covid was the industry’s main concern just months ago. However, Covid remains at the forefront of people’s minds when visiting a showroom, as our most recent research has found.

Feedback from 1533 in-market buyers showed that 55% would avoid visiting showrooms that don’t have social distancing guidelines, mask requirements or other hygiene measures in place. When we asked the same question in July, 63% told us they would avoid showrooms without restrictions in place, and that the percentage has dropped so little suggests that retailers need to maintain Covid measures for some time to come.

The findings also highlight the discrepancy between actual dealer standards and the wishes of customers. Of those who had visited a showroom in the past four weeks, just 44% said that they had been asked to wear a mask, yet 68% of respondents would like dealers to continue requesting that staff and customers wear face masks.

We also asked when customers would like to see restrictions lifted, with 43% stating only when the Government confirms Covid is no longer an issue, and 17% preferring to see all restrictions lifted by the end of the year. Just 11% said they would like to see restrictions removed immediately.

Though no longer enforced by law, Government guidelines state that businesses and venues can continue to request that customers maintain social distancing and wear masks to reduce the chances of Covid transmission.

The research should go a long way in reminding dealers of the importance of making sure customers feel safe and comfortable in showrooms. With the majority of buyers still in favour of Covid restrictions, it remains too early to start relaxing measures.