Honesty the best policy for garage owner amid tough year
- Credit: Daniel Mason
Keeping it real, honest and getting the job right has kept Jamie Coombs optimistic that his garage can continue to go strong during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jamie opened March Fast fit and Servicing on Creek Road in February last year, before the country was plunged into the first national lockdown the following month.
“We hit the number of customers we wanted and the amount of turnover we wanted by the fifth and sixth week; it was brilliant,” he said.
“We were hit by the pandemic and within a week, we dropped down to about 10 per cent of the takings and 10pc of the customers.”
Jamie, who runs the garage with son Brandon and another employee, thinks the change he saw in trade between the week before and after the first lockdown was announced was “apocalyptic”.
Plans to promote and expand the business have also been delayed, such as installing a six-camera system so customers can see work being done on their vehicle as it happens.
“That was in plan this July, but it’s been delayed for about another 12 months as the finances aren’t there now,” Jamie said.
“The less customers we’ve had has given us more chance to treat them with more time and care.
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“It’s not where we want to be, but we’re happy with where we’re at. It could be better, but we could be closed and in financial ruin.”
During the pandemic, Jamie has shown customers what work is being done to their vehicle through WhatsApp and has seen an influx of interest through social media.
Despite less customers, Jamie, who received a business support grant from Fenland Council, has also used more spare time to train Brandon, as well as building better relationships with them.
By doing this, Jamie believes his business has become more than just a garage.
“A five-minute transaction going through details turns into a 15-minute conversation because they’re not seeing anybody,” he said.
“We’ve helped two people move house. I’ve put some in touch with contractors they’re after, I’ve lent DIY tools to someone over the road.
“You don’t know if there will be a fourth wave; you just work for the day.
“Progression has moved quicker than what we wanted, and we’re confident we’ve got the ability to do what we offer and it will come good.”