Opinion: It’s a worrying time for garage owners with difficult decisions to be made

GW columnist, Aaron Phillips explains how the coronavirus outbreak and recent UK lockdown has effected his business

Opinion: It’s a worrying time for garage owners with difficult decisions to be made

To start with it all seemed so far away, we were hearing reports of a coronavirus with flu-like symptoms in Wuhan, China back in January.

Aaron Phillips of Jackson & Phillips Automotive Services in Leighton Buzzard.

Then this new virus started to spread quickly across the globe with Italy being hit hard, it was beginning to seem too close to home. 

Once the disease hit our shores and started to spread within the UK, it was time to take steps to protect both our customers and ourselves.

We began by holding staff meetings to ensure that everyone was aware of the risks and taking this situation seriously. 

We made sure that although we had always used steering wheel wrap, seat covers and floor mats, we were now covering the gear stick and handbrake, and further wearing gloves whenever any of our staff are inside a customer’s car as well as regular, thorough hand washing.

Related: Garage owners left to weigh up pros and cons of staying open

At the same time in reception we have adopted a one-in one-out policy, we are asking customers to drop their keys into a box where they will be disinfected, we are also cleaning the keys before they are handed back on collection.

We regularly clean the reception area, the desk, door handles and card machine at each use.

Door notices outline what we are doing and instructing customers on the change of policy, while asking anyone who shows any sign of illness to stay at home. 

The customers coming in seem to appreciate what we are trying to do and the fact that we are staying open by taking as many precautions as we can, most importantly trying to protect them and ourselves. 

We are also attempting to collect vehicles where possible from our more vulnerable customers who are in self-isolation. 

UK Lockdown

The Prime Minister’s announcement that the country is now on lockdown brought even more restrictions into place and even more difficult decisions to be made.  

We had taken the difficult team decision to carry on working in-line with the government recommendation that garages can stay open.

We hoped we could be here for our community and key workers within it so they can continue to use their vehicles, to get to work where essential, get their shopping and attend hospital appointments. 

Related: Garages, factors and suppliers can stay open, IAAF confirms

For a time, we were able to and we brought in more restrictions to protect our customers and staff.

We stopped issuing our courtesy car, prioritised key workers and closed our waiting area.

But, this morning (27 March) we decided the most responsible course of action to keep everyone safe is to close up temporarily and wait for all this to blow over.

I’ve been in touch with our county council and we will be receiving some support so fingers crossed we’ll be able to make up the difference when we re-open.

Very strange times with lots of difficult decisions to be made, do we close our doors and risk never opening them again, or do we carry on working and risk bringing something home to our families. 

Related: MOT extension will have “huge impact” on independent garages, warns IGA

Share your comments and experiences below.

Home Page Forums Opinion: It’s a worrying time for garage owners with difficult decisions to be made

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  • #193495 Reply
    Kevin homer

    I really think that six months is far to long it should have been six weeks and see if it needs reviewing every two weeks after that with the conditions of some of the calls we test six months it’s far too long it’s it’s going to put many garages at a business which had been built up over the years

    #193530 Reply
    Duncan Smith

    Many thanks for the article Aaron, it’s nice to know we’re not the only ones who have been wrestling with this decision. We followed an almost identical path to you, but for the first time in over 40 years we too arrived at the decision on Friday that it was time to shut up shop and wait for it all to blow over. It was possibly the toughest decision we as a business have ever had to make, but at the end of the day the safety of our ten staff and that of our customers had to come first. The prospect of a rapidly growing overdraft, even with the financial support promised by the government, is a huge concern. We have never once been into the red in all our years of trading, but if this drags on for two or three months I can see it taking 18 months or more for us to recover financially. And I’m sure we’re in a better starting position than many.

    All the best.

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