Small move, big difference

A few months ago, Deon Olivier, sales manager at Toyota in Pietermaritzburg, moved his desk less than 150 metres, but that small move soon led to a 10-15% sales increase.

KZN 24 Deon Olivier

Olivier explains the Toyota dealership was part of a multi-franchise car park that the Bidvest McCarthy group had built on a plot of land overlooked by the N3, South Africa’s busiest highway.

When the McCarthy Group built the car park, Volvo, Peugeot and Land Rover were still part of the stable and Toyota was the only dealership that could afford the lease for the big showroom in one corner of the car park, while Automark took the other corner, recalls Olivier.

He says while exposure to SA’s busiest highway had its benefits, passing trade did not translate into feet passing through the door. “When our lease ended, we decided to consolidate our buildings and in September 2019 moved from one corner of the multi-franchise car park into the opposite corner, where our used car dealer, Automark, was situated.

It meant moving our shop front — and my desk — less than 150 metres as the crow flies, but since then, our overall trade, front and back, have seen a 10-15% increase, and we get a lot more foot traffic through the door.”

Deon Olivier Toyota Pietermaritzburg
Deon Oliver in front of one of the murals of the Drakensberg that decorate the Toyota dealership in Pietermaritzburg.

He says the trade increase showed it was the right decision to move away from what any business in the service industry would consider a more desirable spot than their current position on one of main streets in KwaZulu-Natal’s capital.

“Our June figures saw us back to almost 90% of our pre-lockdown trade and I’m confident we will soon exceed our ‘highway’ figures,” he says.

He said what staff and customers enjoy most in the new premises is the décor. He explains that Toyota had decided to let each franchise decorate their dealerships using local images. “Instead of the posters of cars we used to have, we chose to have large murals showing scenes from the Drakensberg, since we are in the scenic Midlands.”

Olivier said the lesson learned from the move was that the old mantra of ‘location, location, location’ still holds true, even when selling in a smaller market where getting to places is supposedly easier than in a big city. Selling in small markets is something Olivier knows a thing or two about. After growing up in Kokstad he managed two logistics companies, with four branches in Pietermaritzburg, Kokstad, Port Shepstone as well as in Umtata.

Asked if he’ll move his desk any further, he said the offer will have to be very good to beat the lifestyle in the Midlands.

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