Despite the incredibly challenging times that the Corona virus has inflicted both on public health, the economy, and businesses in general, Chris Booth, the Managing Director of Ducati Manchester is remarkably upbeat.
Ducati Manchester is one of the biggest independent dealers in the UK, incorporating Ducati branches in Sale, Preston, Stoke and most recently Worcester.
As most of the motorcycle industry the DMC group has been hit hard, but with help from its bank, Santander, Ducati UK and Ducati in Bologna, the group has managed to remain positive and has seen a flood of enquiries which has also led to a number of deposits throughout the group.
Within days of the lockdown Ducati Manchester had secured a £200,000 CBILS overdraft and repayment holiday on its mortgage from Santander. An appreciation by Santander of the importance of supporting such a successful business as DMC.
Chris Booth, Managing Director, Ducati Manchester said: “As soon as the Government launched CBILS, I contacted Santander to find out if it was a viable option for us. Santander has been brilliant at arranging the CBILS loan for us while I was busy making arrangements to secure the future of the business and our employees. The CBILS loan and the payment holiday on our existing Santander loan have given us a crucial buffer. Ducati has also been supportive in making sure we retain bonuses despite the loss of sales and crucially the deferment of payments on floor stock.
This unprecedented period has made me look at every expense we have. It’s amazing the monthly amount I will be saving going forward as right now I believe it is about getting your expenses as low as possible. It has forced me to look at everything, from van delivery logistics to how best to work all 4 stores together, to group savings. I believe we will come back a stronger business.
Ducati Manchester like many other dealerships throughout the country has been forced to close showrooms, furlough most of its staff and find ways for the business to continue to operate at a reduced rate. We have seen a significant reduction in sales but despite this have seen a surprisingly large number of enquiries being made and many deposits taken for Ducati models across the range.
Ducati UK also been supportive in easing the burden we are all facing by honouring quarter one bonuses whether dealers have met certain targets or not and reducing the timescale on payments being made. Also, Ducati Manchester’s floor stocking partner DF Capital reacted quickly and put in place a range of deferments for charges, due in full payments and curtailments, helping the cash flow of the business. Its times like these that the need for partners to come together and work together has never been more crucial.
In Bologna, Ducati has tried to offset the blow of a closed factory by operating as normally as possible. A number of social media interactions with its race team and key Ducati staff has been well received as well as an online launch of the Streetfighter V4 which sadly missed its chance to spread its ‘wings’ in front of the world’s press at the Ascari circuit in Spain.
Ducati has been at the forefront of digital optimisation and made investments in recent years as well as forming important partnerships with for instance Salesforce – a world leader in digital platforms supporting Sales & Marketing activities
Through this Ducati has been able to offer its fans innovative services that can be used remotely, an essential service in these unique times. Customers are able to interact with the Dealer via chat or video call, book a test ride or configure a new bike.
The Customer can also register through MyDucati the dedicated online section on Ducati.com, in order to retrieve previously saved motorcycle configurations to share them with friends and customers will also soon also be able to manage dealership appointments directly from the portal. Digitalization is not reserved just for customers it has also been implemented to support the Dealer network.
For both the Sales and After-Sales areas, Ducati provides online training through a specific App with a highly effective and interactive approach. Every week micro contents are provided, aimed at keeping the sales teams up to date on all the aspects of customer relationship management and the related processes.
Ducati is also creating an archive of content and information which will allow the majority of dealer training to be carried out online or through webcasts, in particular for the Service activities.
With the recent good news that the Ducati factory in Bologna has resumed production, Ducati is already, providing dealers with adequate online tools to welcome customers safely as soon as this will be possible.
I am confident than when things return to some kind of normality, DMC and the Ducati dealers will be a strong position. Before lockdown we were just entering the selling season with a fantastic range of new bikes to sell. It is now quiet obvious that when we do return the selling experience and way we operate will need to change, this is why I have been busy implementing marketing and social media posts to give confidence to the consumer that we are prepared, you can watch some videos on how we plan to operate here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_6tavoLTzE .
It is obvious that when we do open it will be in a very different capacity to before we closed. We have taken part in the Ducati Cares program, are investing in PPE and training for our staff to ensure we are prepared when we reopen. We have been pushing strong on the social media and marketing to keep engaged with our customers, including weekly quizzes etc. We have the Panigale V4 and V2 in stock as well as the imminent new arrival of Streetfighter V4 and Scrambler 1100. It’s obvious we have lost the profit months of April and May and it will get tough later on in the year, but with manufacturers support and new Ducati models I believe the season will be prolonged and we can pull back some profit to ensure an OK year. The Ducati customer base are very resilient bunch as we saw during the financial crisis of 2007 and we are fortunate that we sell a brand that has consistently given us the tools in the form of new product and dealer support. I for one can’t wait to get those engines started and I am sure our customers feel the same.”
For Chris and his DMC group dealerships there is a lot to look forward to once motorcycle retailers can open again.