NBRA would like to share with our members a summary of the ways in which our association have operated behind the scenes and directly with members during the months of 2020.
With the UK entering tougher restrictions as of today, many UK bodyshops may be worried about the times ahead. Here, NBRA would like to reassure our members that we will be working very hard to assist bodyshops where we can to get through this turbulence.
Please read this article summarising some of the most prominent achievements from last year and how NBRA have continued to support members during this on-going crisis.
With 2020 coming to an end, NBRA would like to share with members an annual summary of the achievements from this year as an association and how these have supported our members through such challenging times. Whilst the immediate issues and concerns facing our industry throughout this year have not yet been eradicated, in the turn of a new calendar year, NBRA would like to focus on some of the positives and would like to remain optimistic for the year ahead as a collective body with shared interests. NBRA hopes that everyone has had a wonderful Christmas break given the circumstances, we wish you a very happy new year and it is fair to say that 2021 will be welcomed with open arms.
Times were changing
So much has changed from this year in comparison to 2019. The way in which not only NBRA as an association has operated, but the majority of industries across the globe. The impact that COVID-19 has had on the world has shifted cultural norms away from industry meetings, towards webinars; away from the traditional rush hours and commuting, towards staggered travelling and working from home; away from secure and consistent work, towards furlough schemes and uncertainty; and away from ordinary national and international travel, towards restriction and regulations. These all, in some way effected the way in which NBRA have operated for so many years. In 2019, NBRA were conducting frequent repairer visits to build relationships with members; hosting conferences and award nights; meeting with Insurers, Accident Management Companies; vehicle manufacturers; and Bodyshops were generally incredibly busy.
However, in 2020, this was all forced to change. In the early months of 2020, news regarding COVID-19 had been circling the media and fears began to rise. NBRA first started to notice potential issues with supply chains when in January, there was a shortage of parts for JCB arriving in from China. Initial dialogue between NBRA and Insurers began around this time to discuss the possibility of parts disruption if the virus was to become a greater problem. Nevertheless, NBRA already had put together a provisional plan for the year ahead with our own goals, objectives and what we would like to achieve in the industry. These included plans to launch both a new and improved data base and website in the year. Plans to overcome challenges concerning courtesy cars and inflation increases. And finally, introducing a ‘Green agenda’ to the industry, off the back of our successful awards ceremony hosted in 2019.
March 2020 – Lockdown 1.0
These plans had be rapidly put on hold, with more concerning issues at hand. By early March 2020, the rate of confirmed cases in the UK was increasing every day. In preparation for what was to come, NBRA started to publish Market Messages to members. Our role here was to inform the best we can of what challenges may lie ahead for members, particularly during extremely confusing and uncertain times. Messages consisted of forecasts as to what was likely to happen, what NBRA advises members to do and safety advice. NBRA was in constant communication with insurers, preparing to maintain Bodyshop support. By March 16th, NBRA were forecasting a 50% frequency reduction in car crash claims over the next 6 months which on average, we now know in hindsight to have been fairly accurate.
On the 23rd March, the UK stood still. Prime Minister, Borris Johnson, announced the UK was to go into a national lockdown, something unrecognisable and unprecedented for this generation. The public had been ordered by the Government to stay at home at all costs. Schools were closed and working became remote. As a result of this, in regards to the automotive industry, the roads were now empty. Respectively, a timely decrease in crash claims followed. NBRA recorded that 74% of Bodyshop’s were temporarily closed, or reduced to ‘skeleton staff’. Subsequently, NBRA began its lobbying process with Government. Initially, topics such as business support were of primary concern, how repairers would be supported through this crisis. But an early achievement through lobbying efforts was that Bodyshop’s became classified as an “Essential Service”. During this time, essential services were incredibly vague and many industries had been forced to close, therefore Bodyshop’s becoming added to the list alongside the likes of food retail and emergency services was a huge step forward towards protecting jobs across the UK and keeping the repair industry moving.
April 2020 – Finance Support
One of the most prominent implementations from the Government during COVID-19 outbreak was made on April 7th, which was the Corona Virus Job Retention Scheme. What we now know to be the Furlough scheme. NBRA’s legal support instantly got to work to help break down what this really means for members in an easy-to-digest format. NBRA followed this up with our very own ‘Corona Calculator’, what this provided for members was an accessible spreadsheet for members to use to make sure that staff levels remained right and to help understand how much work was needed and what to charge in order to at minimum break-even as a repair business.
By April 16th, NBRA suggested charge out guides to assist with understanding what to charge for certain covid related activity.
We also helped members by collating and communicating the varying types of insurer concessions that had started to emerge. We were also being very vocal through open letters to insurers and via ARC360 webinars making pleas for greater assistance. In our view “normal” contract terms were wholly insufficient for the circumstances that presented themselves.
Whilst new car sales had been forced to close, NBRA begun to lobby NFDA to reopen dealer aftermarket for parts and slowly this started to happen.
As workload for repairers across the UK had greatly reduced, NBRA wholly understood that these were troubling times for members and in this respect we decided to provide a break for membership subscription for those who needed it and in total provided support for over 55 members. This was not a deferral, we wrote off the income for members who were struggling financially as we valued our members stability and peace of mind during this time of need.
By April 21st, NBRA was continuing to work hard to support our members wherever we could. NBRA published guides to COVID-19 charges; produced a courtesy car calculator (to understand the true cost per job of a greatly under-utilised lease car fleet); issued rates relief grants; cash advances; business interruption CBILS loans; bank loans advice and wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak asking him to make furlough flexible (as was the case in France) which eventually came into fruition.
The work doesn’t stop
Heading into the summer months of June, the UK began its apparent recovery process. Life became just that bit more normal around this point in time. But our work never stopped. Whilst the pressures of COVID-19 presented NBRA with some of our greatest challenges ever as an association, we loved being able to be there for members and working hard to help wherever possible.
As the year progressed NBRA have continued to work on other issues which were not so COVID-19 related. For instance, challenges regarding loss of parts within the industry; over-engineering by quiet staff worried about their roles; unreasonable contracts being released taking advantage of work shortages and repairer desperation.
In addition to this, there has been significant confusion within the industry regarding ADAS with the new Insurance Industry Regulations (IIR) coming into effect on March 31st 2021. Therefore, NBRA hosted a webinar for repairers and apprentices to breakdown the key components and to help inform attendees. This was then followed by our learning campaign which was issued early December, titled ’12 Days of ADAS’. The concept was to produce a new piece of information regarding ADAS for 12 days (in line with the stereotypical 12 Days of Christmas), but in some way offers support on different aspect of ADAS which members may find to be confusing. These consist of areas such as investments, recalibration of parts, competent training and insights from industry repairers.
However, although 2020 has presented NBRA and the repair industry with so many challenges and obstacles, NBRA are proud to say that we are still growing. Incredibly, NBRA have grown 11 new members last month which brings our total up to 726 sites. This is excellent news and we hope this is testament to the hard work our team have been producing behind the scenes to help our members during such a challenging year.
NBRA Team Structure
In view of the inevitable pressures on membership there will be in 2021 we have restructured our team to reduce cost and align the team to our members’ needs.
National Membership Development – Michael Wicks
Michael and his team now have full ownership of member growth and retention. They will be growing repairer membership through a range of channels and also growing suppliers plugging product and service gaps for our members with unique offerings.
This team will also be fully maintaining your details on our new database and growing the information we have in order to tailor services and communications to you.
We will also be engaging with you far more using scheduled 1-2-1 webinars with members this year ensuring they are up to date with our progress, offerings and services to be utilised and also listening to what matters most to members. Where technology is not “your thing” we will also have scheduled regional meetings where you can meet the whole team for open discussions.
National Membership Services (Digital Vision) – Thomas Hudd
On the other side of the coin, Tom Hudd and his team have a clear agenda which is to continuously develop services that will benefit your Bodyshop business. Our vision is to have products that each role in your business will benefit from on a daily basis and available to them through simple digital mediums be that web or mobile app. Having already supported members with ADAS in Q4 2020, Tom is hard at work building a range of tools designed to support VDAs in their day to day jobs.
I will continue my work with insurers, accident management companies and VMs using our strength as a trade body to bring about positive change on the issues that are important to our members. These include contract terms, Brexit trade agreement as it unfolds further following the 2020 deal, mobility (courtesy cars), bottom line discounts and fighting for repairer support as we move into another year having not shaken off the debilitating effects of Covid-19.
NBRA is growing enormous momentum and we are now squarely “back on the map” with every significant organisation in the industry talking and consulting with us, understanding that the voice of ordinary repairers be they small or large must be heard.
We fully intend to “push the reset button” this year and send our members on to a more secure and more profitable trajectory in 2021.
Chris Weeks, NBRA Director