News

Almost half (46%) of car dealers say they worry about the rise in online car purchases, according to research from Close Brothers Motor Finance.
 
Almost a third (30%) of dealers surveyed in the Dealer Satisfaction Survey said they worry about customers turning to online car sale websites instead of dealer showrooms, while 16% are concerned buyers will turn to online marketplaces such as eBay and Facebook.
 
The survey revealed that 58% of dealers have increased investment in their website to meet the growing demand of digital, while 60% have spent more on their social media channels.
 
While 62% use more digital tools, such as finance calculators, 41% have been offering virtual tours of their showrooms/forecourts.
 
Seán Kemple, managing director at Close Brothers Motor Finance, said: “The car buying experience continues to adapt to the technological advances being made across the sector.
 
“It’s never been a more critical time for dealers to embrace technology and offer their customers the high-level personal service that they can access from the comfort of their homes.
 
“After a tough year, which saw showrooms close their doors, potential buyers had no alternative than to research and purchase their car online or hold out until restrictions had been lifted. As such, the online trend is here to stay.
 
“Even of those who prefer to buy in person, many will still do their research before stepping onto a forecourt. And this can give dealers an advantage to reach more potential customers. So, the value of dealer advice and insight both via digital channels and in person is significant and could lead to more sales.
 
“As well as having an accessible and up-to-date digital forecourt, the savviest dealers have been making the most of software and tools to engage with their customers through every stage of the car-buying process.”
 
Dealers risk losing out on referrals from new customers who have discovered them online, warns JudgeService.
 
The COVID-19 pandemic and series of lockdown restrictions on car showrooms have “changed customer behaviour for good”, according to online retailer Carzam.
 
Although online buying has accelerated, further research from the Britain Under the Bonnet report found that drivers are not quite ready to take the full leap with buying a new car online.
 
Instead, motorists say they use digital channels to research vehicle choices, dealerships, and finance options. Just, one in eight (13%) drivers said they would feel comfortable buying a car online without seeing it first.
 
While more than two in five (43%) drivers admitted that they would prefer to browse online but would then like to see the vehicle before buying.
 
When it comes to car-buying decisions, younger drivers are more likely to be comfortable with buying a new car completely online, and would do so – a fifth (18%) of 17-24 year-olds compared to just 7% of over 55s.
 
Men are also more comfortable than women purchasing cars online at 16% and 10% respectively.
 
The Dealer Satisfaction Survey is a continual telephone survey undertaken by Close Brothers Motor Finance and reported on a quarterly basis.
 
The survey questions 200 new and used dealerships across the UK to help provide a picture of dealer trends.
British fintech giant Revolut is now making its entry into the travel industry with a new service that allows users to book travel accommodation and receive up to 10% cashback.
 
It is also the company’s first non-financial or insurance product launch.
 
The move comes right after the digital bank announced its monster funding last week, where it was valued at $33 billion to become UK’s top fintech startup and the second-largest fintech in Europe.
 
With the new feature, the fintech giant is aiming to become a ‘super app’ that would offer multiple services through one interface. The travel feature, Stays, allows users to book their accommodation where they manage their finances. The in-app will award users with up to 10% instant cashback on bookings made through the app, saving the average customer £69 a year.
 
This will be the company’s biggest giveaway and will see Revolut give £70 million to UK customers booking through the app. Founded in 2015 with the best exchange rates and zero commission abroad, Stays reinforces the company’s ongoing innovation as it continues to help users spend more smartly when travelling across the globe.
72% of Brits can’t wait to go abroad as soon as they’re able to according to data from Revolut. After over 18 months in lockdown, the appetite for the staycation is waning with just 6% of Brits having no plans to travel abroad at all. And it’s not just Brits experiencing travel fever, the same goes for holidaymakers all over Europe with 84% of the French and 72% of the Spanish also desiring an international vacation.Aiming to become the go-to app for travel and to support post-Covid travellers, the platform is now available to Revolut customers in the UK, with the global superapp planning to gradually roll out the feature to customers across Europe and the US in the coming months. The platform will add more useful travel related products (flights, car hire, travel experiences) – making it the go-to destination for all travel decisions.
 
Marsel Nikaj, Head of Savings and Lifestyle at Revolut, said: “As the world begins to cautiously open up, we know everyone is desperate to get away whenever they can – whether it’s to Margate or Mallorca. We’ve built Stays to make it easy for people to find and book their perfect break in their ideal destination. After 18 months of endless restrictions and lockdowns, we want to give people more and make their money travel further.”
 
From now on, by using Stays, Revolut customers can discover accommodation options across the globe with options ranging from bargain B&Bs to unique, luxury lodges.
 
The customers can also expect access to exclusive rates on accommodation, with no booking fees and the ability to browse and book all from within the Revolut app. The 10% instant cashback on bookings means they can save more of their money to spend when it matters – when they’re actually on holiday.
To celebrate the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games, bed retailer and Official Sleep Partner of Team GB and ParalympicsGB, Dreams, has announced the launch of a new series of bedtime stories, created in partnership with four of the brand’s Team GB and ParalympicGB ambassadors: Laura Kenny, Jade Jones, Ali Jawad and Jordanne Whiley.
 
Specially curated to help children up and down the nation dream big during this summer of sport, each story recounts the tale of a different athlete’s path to success and the obstacles they faced along the way.
 
From problems with bullies and rebellious teenage years, to learning about persistence, and sharing the joy that comes with finding your passion, these heart-warming tales recount how each of the athletes overcame childhood challenges and worked as hard as they could in their younger years, to ultimately achieve their dreams.
 
Collaborating with Audio Always, children can tune in and listen to each of the stories before bed, by simply searching ‘Bedtime Stories from Dreams’ on all major audio channels, including Spotify and Apple music.
 
For those who find visuals help their children unwind and drift off to dream-land, animated short films of each story are also available to watch on YouTube here:
Consumers can also get their hands on free limited-edition physical copies of all four books from 12th July and throughout the Games season, when they purchase any bed product from Dreams stores across the UK.
 
The UK’s number one bed retailer will also be giving away physical copies of the story books on the brand’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts, until the 5 September 2021.
 
This latest Dream Team Bedtime Stories series is a welcome addition to Dreams’ existing children’s story collection. The launch marks a continued effort by the brand to shine a light on the power of sleep not just for adults, but for improving the mental wellbeing of children and young adults too.
MG Motor UK has appointed former Volkswagen, Hyundai and Nissan franchised car retail specialist Andrew Stuart as its new head of sales.
 
Stuart takes up his post at the fast-growing, value-driven elelctric vehicle specialist during a period of rapid sales acceleration which had previously been led by previous head of sales Daniel Gregorious.
 
AM reported back in May how Gregorious lost a battle with pancreatic cancer after a six-month battle against the disease.
 
Stuart joins MG as the brand continues to set bold new growth plans and looks set to grow its franchised retail network to 150 sites by the end of 2021 – well above the 130 target initially set.
 
His CV includes 13 years in various roles with the Volkswagen Group and VW brand, a year as sales operation manager at Nissan and over two years as head of planning and Supply at Hyundai Motor UK.
 
In his new role at MG, Stuart will be responsible for sales performance, customer experience across retail and fleet channels and used cars, including MG’s EV models.
 
He said: “It’s a really exciting time to be joining MG Motor, with an engaged network and huge growth opportunities, not to mention our leadership in affordable EVs.
 
“I’m really looking forward to helping drive the business forward and to increase our market share – the MG brand has great product and huge potential.”
 
MG Motor UK commercial director, Guy Pigounakis, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Andrew into the MG Motor team – he has a terrific automotive background and is the perfect fit for driving up volumes as we continue to increase our market share, especially in the EV sector.”
 
MG currently offers six models in the UK including three plug-in cars – the established MG ZS EV, the game-changing All New MG5 EV and MG HS Plug-in Hybrid, all backed up by MG’s incredible seven-year warranty and fast-developing dealer network.
 
This week the brand launched its new longer-range MG5 EV model.
 
The C-segment estate car claims a 250-mile range from its 61.1kWh battery and is priced from £26,495 after the Government's plug-in car grant (PiCG)..
 
Last year, MG's UK registrations rose by 41% against the backdrop of a market down 29.4% overall as retailers and OEMs battled the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Year-to-date to the end of June its registrations were up 76.24% at 13,594 (H1 2020: 7,712).
For the 11 weeks to 17 July, full-price sales at Next were up 18.6% compared with the equivalent period in 2019.
 
Online sales increased by 44% in the quarter. Next-labelled childrenswear sales jumped by 40%, and home by 12%. However, Next-labelled adult clothing sales fell by 6%, compared with the equivalent period in 2019, but it said the performance was an improvement on previous quarters because of pent-up demand, the onset of warm weather and increased consumer savings over the past 18 months. It also said the absence of overseas holidays this summer has meant shoppers have more budget for domestic spending.
 
Next said it did not expect sales to continue at “these exceptionally strong levels” but it is more optimistic about its sales outlook than three months ago. As a result, it has estimated that its sales guidance for the second half of the financial year will increase between 3% and 6%.
 
The company has also decided to repay £29m of business rates relief. This accounts for the period of time this year that Next shops were not charged business rates but were open.
An office PropTech startup aiming to blend WeWork and Airbnb has launched.
 
Jarvo says it plans to solve the problem that many of us have working at home: our working day is rife with distractions, but we no longer wish to commute or sit in traffic. 
 
Jarvo is an online platform that allows homeowners to list their home workspaces online and professional guests book local workspaces by the hour with no lease commitments.
 
The startup was founded last month by Daniel Hillman, who found working from home distracting, coffee shops noisy, and traditional coworking spaces too central to inner towns and cities.
 
Following his previous property business going into administration and with the challenges many of us faced during COVID-19 lockdown, Daniel was forced to start over. Unsure about what to do next and with the arrival of a new baby daughter, he set about finding a solution to a big problem he had.
 
“I could not find anything other than coworking spaces which were in the centre of town and expensive. I don’t own a car and the idea of wasting time commuting 30 minutes either way didn’t make any sense when I could otherwise spend that time with my family,” he said. 
 
Out of frustration, Daniel (below) decided to approach his neighbour to see whether he could use one of his rooms. As he left his house, a lightbulb went off in his head and he immediately began searching for something that may exist already. 
 
“The best I found was Airbnb, but it was far too expensive to also pay for the night and I only needed a small space for a desk and chair so made zero sense. 
 
“I figured if I built it for myself as a consumer, I could solve a problem and others may share that same problem.”
 
Jarvo has beta launched in Reading and Bristol but plans to expand to other areas soon. 
 
Homeowners are able to apply to be hosts. The company reviews each applicant to ensure they meet certain criteria and can offer basic amenities such as fast Wi-Fi, power outlets and bathroom access. 
 
The firm says all users go through a thorough Know Your Customer (KYC) process used by the likes of Revolut and Monzo banking to ensure every workspace is safe and secure.
 
A single Jarvo workspace exclusively serves its registered users, who sign up for free. Workspaces can earn their hosts anywhere up to £1,000 per month based on location, number of workspaces and dates available. 
 
“Since launch, we have received a huge amount of interest from both professionals who want to book workspaces for themselves and businesses who want to provide their staff local workspaces whilst enabling remote work,” Daniel said.
 
Jarvo plans over the next few years to create a decentralised network of thousands of remote offices across the UK.

Travel trade association UKinbound, has released new data which shows that 87% of inbound tour operators and destination management companies (DMCs) have lost more than 95% of their 2021 business due to confusion on opening.
 
The survey found that more than a quarter (26%) of respondents forecast no business at all for the remainder of 2021, having now missed the summer season, whilst over half (53%) expected to make 10% or less of their 2019 revenue this year.
 
As the wider UK economy starts to reopen this week, UKinbound and over 30 of its members took to the water to highlight why 'Freedom Day' is anything but for the inbound tourism industry.
 
The group delivered a fresh message to government, highlighting the vast amount of export earnings lost by the UK daily due to a lack of inbound tourism, and seeking urgent support for the industry.
 
It calls for a Tourism Export Recovery Fund, extension of the furlough scheme to April 2022 and mutual recognition of Covid vaccination status with key inbound markets
 
Earlier this month UKinbound submitted a proposal to Treasury for a Tourism Export Recovery Fund.
 
The proposal calls for an allocated fund that would allow inbound tour operators and DMCs to apply for a capped grant award based on their 2019 revenue levels.a
 
Normally worth more than £28 billion per year to the UK economy, the inbound tourism sector has been decimated since March 2020, resulting in a loss of £78 million per day.
 
The proposal also calls for an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until April 2022.
 
With 77% of tour operator and DMC staff still on furlough, and with no incoming business for the foreseeable future, the removal of the scheme from 1 October will be a devastating blow for the sector, UKinbound says.
 
UKinbound is urging government to rapidly implement vaccination certification reciprocity for inbound markets, as it has done for outbound travel and for UK citizens returning from amber list countries.
 
 
Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound, said: "With the rest of the UK economy opening up, it continues to lose £78m a day in exports due to a lack of inbound tourism. Hundreds of previously profitable businesses that provide valuable revenue to local economies are on the brink of collapse, through no fault of their own."
Purplebricks is to launch an extensive marketing campaign after this summer’s Olympics to emphasise the local knowledge of its 600 agents ‘on the ground’.
 
Chief executive Vic Darvey has told Estate Agent Today that extensive research leading to the revised pricing strategy - unveiled last week - showed one of the perceived weaknesses of the brand was that it had insufficient local presence and expertise, because it lacked High Street premises.
 
“That’s the perception, although it’s not actually true. We have 600-plus Local Property Experts but we need to reassure customers and potential customers that those locals experts are exactly that - expert” he says.
 
Darvey states that the local marketing will take the form of local TV and radio advertisements emphasising the regions in which they are broadcast, naming key cities and territories where LPEs are based.
 
There will be local marketing and sponsorship of events, and individual LPE names will come up in Google searches based on users’ locations, to make the local agents both recognisable and approachable.
 
Darvey’ s pro-local stance backs up statements earlier in the year by Purplebricks’ new chief marketing officer, Ben Carter, who announced that having established a strong brand at national level, the agency would tilt to emphasising its local qualities.
 
In March this year Carter said: “You’re going to see Purplebricks much more in local areas in future, we’re going to have more local visibility and a presence in the regional press, and we’re going to use the potential of online platforms to target local audiences as well.”
 
The agency’s new local campaign is to start after the conclusion of the Olympic Games, which run in Tokyo - under challenging Covid restrictions - between July 23 and August 8.
 
The agency has been heavily involved with marketing its Olympics sponsorship - it is the official estate agent of Team GB - and TV advertising to date has included past medallists Laura Kenny, Bianca Walkden, Dan Goodfellow and Moe Sbihi.
Vodafone has launched its largest advertising campaign in four years to focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in the UK.
 
The network has joined forces with creative agency, Ogilvy and production company, Knucklehead to create three short and compelling short stories that demonstrate that ‘Together We Can’.
 
The campaign looks at three businesses – an antique shop, a start-up, and an architecture firm – to shine a light on how businesses, no matter their size, can flourish and prosper with key digital technologies such as website building tools, virtual office capabilities, and 5G.
 
The campaign will run until 3 August across a series of broadcast and online channels with a view of reaching 93 per cent of UK SMEs.
 
“We are committed to helping businesses of all shapes and sizes. This campaign demonstrates what can happen when you turn your passions into a business. By shining a light on real entrepreneurs that have made this leap, we hope it encourages others to see what’s possible” said Head of Small Business at Vodafone UK, Andrew Stevens.
Following the removal of Covid restrictions on indoor spaces and a renewed interest in sports with the start of the Olympics this week, Dan Williams, co-founder and CEO of British sportswear retailer WIT Fitness, explains the opportunities for brands in partnering with gyms:
 
“It is now very easy to launch a sportswear brand across social media channels, but increasingly hard to stand out.
 
One way to do so is to have your own physical store, around which you can build a community – the customer can buy into the brand and, most importantly, experience the product.
 
This is exactly what we did at WIT: building our model around physical and digital from day one. We had options very early on to partner with two big UK gym chains, however, we wanted full ownership of our own experience, and were concerned that our brand would become solely associated with these gyms too early in our lifecycle. For instance, if a clothing label goes into Virgin Active gyms, it runs the risk of being swallowed up by [association with] the brand.
 
Saying that, the issue is that small brands are largely priced out of the option to open stores, by the huge capex and ongoing rent costs. We overcame this by running a pop-up strategy for 12 months across east and central London in 2016, which gave us an opportunity to launch the brand with physical experiences, while attracting investment money for a larger physical expansion. We opened our permanent combined physical store and gym in St Paul's in the City of London in 2018.For brands that can’t or don’t do this, partnering with gym chains can be a great alternative and there have been some stand-out success stories, such as Lululemon and its nationwide partnerships with Equinox and Barry’s Bootcamp, and also locally in London with boutique gyms Sports Edit and Core Collective.
 
It is an attractive option because they are usually short-term lease deals – at least initially – they are often structured around revenue share rather than fixed rent, there is very limited capex involved, and, usually, you get your product in front of your target consumer.
 
However, it can also be fraught with danger. Whether it is right or not for it will depend on where the brand is in its lifecycle, whether bricks and mortar is part of the future strategy and how good a match the gym is for its target consumer.
 
Largely, the success stories are when established sportswear brands partner with gym chains – they are already renowned brands in their own right, so there is no danger of any loss of brand equity by partnering up with the gym chain, and its data has confirmed that its consumer is in those physical sites.
 
The WIT deal with CrossFit is not a traditional gym-clothing brand partnership, as we will largely not be placing our products in CrossFit affiliates. WIT has been licensed to produce CrossFit-branded clothing, which we will then wholesale to CrossFit affiliates [of which there are more than 15,000 worldwide]. Affiliate gyms are independent entities that pay a franchise fee to use the CrossFit methodology. Only affiliated gyms will be able to sell CrossFit-branded clothing. The clothing we are putting in its affiliates is white-label CrossFit branded, and we will help it wholesale its own clothing to its gyms.
 
We will continue to sell our own WIT-branded clothing direct to consumer rather than go via third-party gym partners, so that our brand stays independent. We want to maintain control over the WIT brand, while helping CrossFit add value to its affiliates, which will own the CrossFit clothing retail themselves, therefore having an additional revenue opportunity.CrossFit members are our core customer – we know that from all of our demographic data – so its global database will be driven to our website and stores. [The deal] is beneficial to us because CrossFit will promote us to its affiliates as a wholesale partner. This will boost our global awareness and customer acquisition opportunity.
 
 
I am not ruling out in the future placing WIT in certain gyms or CrossFit affiliates, but we would have to be confident the brand would be represented as we would want, so that the quality of consumer experience is maintained. We believe it is also potentially a good avenue for international expansion, and may well work with gym chain partners across Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and South America, alongside the CrossFit wholesale.
 
 
My advice would be to consider where your brand is in the lifecycle before committing to gym partnerships. There is no doubt it can be a cost-effective way of reaching your consumer physically and this can help a brand stand out.
 
 
You also need to know exactly who your consumer is before committing to any partnerships, as you do not want to create confusing messaging around a brand. If there are pop-up opportunities around physical retail in gyms and events, I would invest in that. These have served us particularly well, and are a brilliant way to get the product in hands. There are some great agencies and individual agents out there who work on short-term rents. We have always relied on property acquisition and disposal services company Locate Retail.There is not set structure for sportswear brands partnering with gyms, and each option comes with its own pros and cons. Partnering with gym chains can be a great alternative for brands big and small, and there have been some stand-out success stories.”
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