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Agility is the key for 2021 and beyond, says Graham O’Neill, CEO of ACIS Ltd

I don’t need to tell anyone what a difficult and challenging year it has been.  With the roll-out of the vaccine underway, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.  But what an extraordinary time it is to be running a business right now.
In a way it’s rather like a game of two halves.  At the time of the first lockdown back in March, road traffic dropped to 23 per cent of normal.  As our business model is aligned to accident repair and the number of incidents on the road declined significantly, business in line with bodyshop vehicle repair product pull-through decreased to 25 per cent of our members’ normal sales levels.  Then traffic returned, and despite the recent lockdown, sales have increased to around 75-85 per cent of their normal levels, but sales have plateaued.
Unfortunately, distributors have been forced to furlough staff, close some branches and shut their doors altogether.  Even though sales have built back up again, some UK distributors are choosing not to reopen some of the sites they closed, as they have taken the decision to service them from other locations.
However, despite the difficulties, crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic offer up opportunities to reflect on the business, consider your strengths and weaknesses and identify areas for growth and expansion that perhaps you may not have done if a monumental challenge hadn’t been put in your way.
Certainly, ACIS has used the time to re-evaluate and review how the organisation can differentiate in the marketplace and become leaner, fitter and stronger to be even more relevant than before.  Our ‘Agility 2025’ business strategy is evolving to reposition the business, recruit new distribution partners and expand ACIS member locations to become the company of choice for independent distributors and repairers nationwide.
With Brexit on the horizon, obviously there is cause for concern across the industry.  A high percentage of refinish products come from abroad.  Very few products such as paint and bodysop consumables are manufactured in the UK, the majority are imported from Europe and further afield.  The outcome will depend on whether we get a deal with the EU and if not, what happens to World Trade Rules.
We will know soon enough.  Whatever the outcome, ACIS’ business strategy is to be nimble and flexible, and help shape the future of the industry.  We are continuing to invest in the business and have several exciting new initiatives planned for 2021, centred on technology and focused on delivering increased profitability and business success for all our stakeholders.
Time will tell if agility becomes the watch word for the accident repair sector.

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