Nearly half of bodyshops surveyed have had to suspend trading amid pandemic lockdown

Around three-quarters (72.2%) of bodyshops surveyed cite that claims notifications are already down by more than 70% since the partial lockdown to halt the spread of coronavirus began two weeks ago, according to data from Trend Tracker.

Its UK Body Repair Covid-19 Survey, in conjunction 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.

The week-long survey found that 49.1% of bodyshops have now suspended trading, with 24.3% suggesting they are likely to do the same in due course. Only a quarter (26.6%) plan to stay open for the foreseeable future.

Chris Weeks, executive director of 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.”

‘Disruptive’ influence

The research highlighted key supply chain issues too, as 82.9% of respondents said that the coronavirus pandemic is a “disruptive” influence on the supply of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, mainly due to agents closing down.

Only 45.9% said they had experienced no problems getting hold of paint and materials; 45.2% are still able to receive aftermarket parts and 52.6% are accessing green parts despite the lockdown.

Respondents admitted that cashflow is their biggest current concern – bodyshops have urged work providers to introduce a range of support measures to help them remain viable, including quicker payment of invoices, higher labour rates during the crisis, support with courtesy car allocations and quicker authorisation.

Only 14% of bodyshops featured in the survey have retained their entire workforce on full pay; 64.7%, on the other hand, have had to furlough staff. Less than one in 10 businesses expect to take on new staff or apprentices in the next three months.


Sector optimism

Despite this seemingly negative outlook, 77.9% of respondents are either ‘cautiously’ or ‘very’ optimistic that they could withstand the financial impact of a two-month lockdown, while 80.7% are ‘cautiously’ or ‘very’ confident that their business would be stronger in the second half of the year, assuming the coronavirus crisis has passed.

Mark Hadaway, ARC360 co-founder, added: “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.”