ILC ARTICLE

New survey sheds light on true cost of Covid-19 on UK body repair sector


An in-depth survey has revealed the shocking scale of devastation the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has already caused to bodyshops within the UK automotive aftermarket.


Less than two weeks into a ‘partial lockdown’ that some fear could last six months, 72.2% of respondents to the UK Body Repair Covid-19 Survey reported that claims notifications were already down more than 70%, with 49.1% of bodyshops saying they had now suspended trading and a further 24.3% suggesting they were likely to follow suit. The remaining 26.6% said they planned to stay open for the foreseeable future.


The week-long survey carried out by Trend Tracker, in partnership with ARC360 and the National Body Repairers Association (NBRA), generated more than 220 responses – representing over 500 individual sites – with turnovers ranging from below £1m to those greater than £10m per annum.
Mark Bull, managing director, Trend Tracker, said, ‘We know that COVID-19 has had a hugely damaging impact on the sector, both in the UK and globally. From a UK perspective, we wanted to back up the anecdotal views with evidence-based data, so we can understand how bodyshops and their supply chain can navigate its way through this most challenging of times, and consider how the industry may emerge out the other side.


‘We also appreciate that there is a time lag between countries experiencing the challenges COVID-19 brings to automotive repair industry, so this survey may assist markets in other parts of the world prepare for what is coming down the road.’


The survey also put the supply issue into sharp focus, with a staggering 82.9% admitting the pandemic was a ‘disruptive’ influence on the supply of OEM parts, mainly due to key agents closing down. However, roughly half said they had experienced no issues at all regarding the supply of paint and materials (45.9%), aftermarket parts (45.2%), and green parts (52.6%).


In terms of staffing levels, the survey found that only 14% had retained its entire workforce on full pay, with 64.7% saying employees had been Furloughed. As bodyshops face an uncertain future, future recruitment is also an issue with less than one in 10 businesses saying they expected to take on new staff or apprentices in the next three months.


These figures underline the scale of the challenge facing bodyshops, many of whom admit cashflow is their biggest concern and have urged work providers to introduce a range of support measures to help them remain viable. These include: quicker payment of invoices; higher labour rates during the crisis; support with courtesy car allocations; and quicker authorisation.


Chris Weeks, executive director, NBRA, said, ‘For many of our members this is a fight for survival and they need immediate and significant support to get through it. This survey should leave no one in any doubt about the severity of the situation; the NBRA will use the results to inform its next steps to ensure we’re helping our members in the best way possible.’
As alarming as the findings are, the survey did provide some hope going forward, with 77.9% of bodyshops saying they were either ‘cautiously’ or ‘very’ optimistic they could withstand the financial impact of a two-month lockdown, and 80.7% ‘cautiously’ or ‘very’ confident their business would be stronger in the second half of the year, assuming the Coronavirus crisis has passed.


Mark Hadaway, ARC360 co-founder, said, ‘While these are extremely testing times, it’s hugely positive to note the percentage of bodyshops that remain optimistic. It underlines the incredible resilience within this sector and suggests that it might not be too long until repairers are back doing what they do best – supporting people during a time of need and putting them back on the road safely.’


The full survey is available to download free of charge on the Trend Tracker website: https://www.trendtracker.co.uk/reports-data/
The findings will also be discussed during this week’s ARC360 webinar on Wednesday 8 April at 1.30pm. To register: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_0eslN5W0TomZvyY1SNYuGw

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