As one of the last remaining family owned motor factors here in the South West, we are proud of our over 40 years of service to the independent motor trade. Our business is built on yours and supporting our local communities has been fundamental to us as we have grown over the years. We know that small businesses like yours, form the centre of many local communities where they create employment and wealth.
The consumers choice
A Which? survey from March this year showed consumer trust in the food industry has dropped by 24% since the horsemeat scandal broke. As a result many people are choosing to use their local independent butchers. While this return is good news, there is a danger that the supermarkets many regain the consumers trust.
We feel that people should be making the most of their local independent businesses, but we know that they do not always think small or local when they set off to the shops. Many greengrocers and butchers are better value than the supermarkets, and they offer a personalised service that is difficult to find in the big chains. However people still end up spending their money in the big chains and sadly by not using our local, independent businesses we could end up losing them forever.
It seems that many small businesses believe that a lack of consumer confidence will pose a significant challenge to their business over the next year, according to the results of a recent snap poll carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
The shrinking high street is placing many businesses in danger, with supermarkets and the internet gaining more sales by the day. With people now working longer hours and the growth of convenience, one-stop-shopping and the internet, local, independent businesses are at risk. This is especially true as more of the big names extend their opening hours and further expand their product ranges outside of their traditional core business.
The FSB’s recent ‘Voice of Small Business’ Index for Q1 2013 showed that confidence among retail businesses fell from 1 to -11, highlighting that businesses have gone from being either neutral or concerned about their expectations, to being overly pessimistic. Another worrying trend from the survey was that 47% of retail respondents reported a decline in their revenue during the previous quarter. Is this a reflection of how you feel about how your business is performing?
Getting inside your customers head
So how does all this relate to you and your business? Well, the motor trade is made up of many small businesses as well as big chains and franchised dealers. We tend to find that just like the greengrocer and the butcher, the independent garages are better value than the dealers, and they offer a personalised service that you rarely find in some of the big chains. However the consumers opinion of the independent garage is very mixed.
Now, according to the 2012 Which? car survey, motorists are more satisfied with the servicing they receive from independent garages than that supplied by franchised dealers. Which? asks thousands of motorists each year about their car servicing experience and many people gave the independent garages a better satisfaction rating than authorised manufacturer servicing. Seems like a glowing report doesn’t it?
However new figures from the Citizens Advice consumer service released for World Consumer Rights Day, reveal the biggest consumer problems faced by people in England and Wales between April 2012 to February 2013. Number 3 on their list was “Repairs from an independent garage” with 11,437 complaints, that’s almost one for each independent workshop in the UK!
Add in to that used cars bought from an independent dealer consistently remains the largest headache for consumers as over 45,000 people complained about them, the independent motor trade has much work to do. The trade’s public image could benefit from a major overhaul. Motorists have a choice about where they get their car serviced and repaired so how do you get them to keep trade local and chose you?
Improving their confidence and your image
For starters there is Right2Choose which is about driving sales into your workshop by encouraging motorists to use their local, independent garage. Under Right2Choose, it is right to promote the independent automotive aftermarket and its contribution to the UK economy to consumers. It is also right to highlight to the motorist their choices of where they take their vehicle for servicing and repair.
Whilst most garages are reputable and carry out quality servicing and repairs there is still a minority who do not meet even the basic standards of mechanical skill and knowledge, customer care, health and safety and good business practice. Here are just two examples of how you could avoid being a complained about garage and become a praised one instead.
Motor Codes is the government-backed, self-regulatory body for the motor industry. Its voluntary membership of thousands of garages is committed to maintaining high standards of car service and repair to the Trading Standards Institute-approved codes of practice. The Code promotes and safeguards consumer interests by helping motorists find better businesses and to encourage garages to maintain high standards of customer service.
Trust My Garage is a customer assurance scheme operated by the Independent Garage Association and is the ‘badge’ of the Independents. As the only national representative body for independent garages, they can help you to set yourself apart from other businesses in your area, take on more repair work, safeguard your existing customer base and increase sales. Trust My Garage is becoming a household name and will be known as a sign of good quality work and good customer service.
Look to support your local businesses
So these are just a few ways you can try to boost the consumers confidence in you and your workshop but what about helping keep trade local? Well, the Federation of Small Businesses is the UK’s largest campaigning pressure group promoting and protecting the interests of the self-employed and owners of small firms. Becoming a member could provide your business with a number benefits and give you the opportunity to network with other small business owners locally.
However a recent report which shows a shift of consumer activity to the internet means the high street share of spend has fallen from 50% in 2000 to a predicted 40.2% in 2014. Combined with the fact UK online sales stood at a 12.7% share in 2012, which is already the highest online share of retail in the world, you can get a feel for the scale of the threat to local businesses.
As you may know, 50% of money spent in local shops goes back into the local community and from supermarkets it’s only 5%, so why not work with other local, independent businesses to keep more of that spend locally. You could be surprised how much extra trade you might get by working with your local butcher promoting each other’s business.
So in summary given the state of the publics opinion of the motor trade and growing influence of the big players, now would seem to the time to make sure you show you business in the best possible light. Signing up to an assurance scheme can help boost the customer confidence in your business, while networking with other local businesses many benefit all those involved and further enhance your profile locally.