Doing business in a student town

Business in Potchefstroom has slowed down under current COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, with the impact of COVID-19 rippling from the town’s university to smaller businesses across town.

Caption 1 Pine Maritz

Dealerfloor checked in with the Eastvaal Motor Group, which owns Eastvaal Toyota Potchefstroom to get a reading on business in town.

Eastvaal Toyota Potchefstroom has been part of Eastvaal for the last 12 years and has been awarded the title as Dealer of the Year twice. It includes a full-service Hino division. Pine Maritz has been at the helm for the past six years.

Dealerfloor asked Pine about doing business in Potch and the seasonality of sales in this student town.

Eastvaal Toyota in Potchefstroom is the group's only dealer in the city.

“It is not so much the students who are our primary customers, but people and businesses that originated in the town because of the university. The university creates a lot of secondary businesses and fuels growth for the whole town and surrounding communities.

“With the arrival of COVID-19 and the lockdown it is those businesses that are linked to the education system that are suffering the most, even today. It has a negative effect on all businesses, including the retailing of new vehicles. The likes of contractors and sub-contractors are hit the hardest and are an important part of our business,” says Pine.

“We are, however, thankful that the drawn-out drought in the area has been broken with good rainfall for the last two seasons. The farming community is an important part of our business and as such we are thankful for the recovery of this sector.”

Pine says at this moment the availability of stock and parts is a source of frustration, but with strict lockdown restrictions still in place in several countries, it is understandable that the supply chain will be interrupted.

Pine Maritz.
Pine Maritz has spent most of his career with the brand.

“Competition is stiff, even from our own brand, which is represented in most of our neighbouring towns. Nevertheless, we managed to keep our heads up and still provide an excellent service and a good spread of products. We had our best month ever in November last year. We accept it was a spillover of buying customers since the more serious lockdown periods, but we are proud of this achievement.”

Pine has been with Toyota for most of his life.

“I started my career as a trainee at Oranje Toyota in Bloemfontein, worked there in different capacities before moving to Rustenburg. In Rustenburg, I also qualified as a Toyota Knight in various positions with the manufacturer. It is a title received when a certain number of criteria have been reached and it is a huge honour, but you must maintain it to keep the title.

“I am currently the chairperson of the North West Dealer Council for Toyota, representing eight dealerships in the province, and I facilitate interactions with the manufacturer on behalf of the dealerships,” says Pine.

In his spare time, Pine enjoys golf, hunting, deep sea fishing and the outdoors in general.

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