Reports from the front line tell us that retail activity between Christmas and the New Year has been fairly brisk but this has differed by region. Customers have definitely been attracted by the SALE signs which have been much in evidence throughout retail land in the UK. We have also; dare we say it, heard of some dealers even selling some new cars! Could this be an early sign of the much longed for green shoots of recovery? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves but with auction and wholesale prices hardening and customers clearly out looking for a bargain there may be some life out there but not as we know it.
You see as much as we would all love some good news wherever it may come from, our sources also tell us that though enquiry levels may be frenetic, converting potential customers to sales has been another thing altogether. It seems that the nervousness and unease may be with the market for a while as potential purchasers keep holding on for further drops in price, and although we always advocate preparation and research before any visit to a showroom, if you are in a position to buy a car it might be best not to hesitate before committing.
One main dealer we spoke to actually said that he had seen more than 20 walk-in customers in one day and by 6.30pm of all of these enquiries only 2 people had actually signed on the dotted line, and although the activity level is extremely encouraging could it have been people fed up of turkey who just want a change of scenery and to get out of the cold? We will see as the month progresses, but if all the early signs mean anything the year has started promisingly and long may it continue.
The next thing to consider, however is the weather, all the country needs is loads of snow and sub zero temperatures to put the good feeling back in its box for another few weeks and customers out of showrooms.
The news from the auctions from the last quarter of 2008 is that conversion rates were up and volumes were more than comparable to the end of 2007 which is a good benchmark of prices for the start of 2009 when, if the last 15 years are anything to go by, stock on the wholesale market becomes more expensive.
This year is obviously a crucial one if dealers are to survive and it will be more than interesting to see the sales figures of new and used cars at the end of Jan!