Why is your car dealership open on a Sunday?

Although the government has put a cap on the price of electricity, there is no doubt that energy costs have come to front of mind across retailers. If I was to say to you that you could save at least 7% on your energy costs, improve your recruitment, and still make the same return on sales this would surely be of interest.

The answer lies in not opening your dealerships on a Sunday. In this blog I’m going to look at the compelling argument for not opening on a Sunday and, using our call data and other sources, show the benefits this action would take without affecting your overall business.

I’ll also show you how to deal with concerns you may have for missing enquiries on a Sunday.

Open all hours?

On 28 August 1994, the Sunday trading act came into being, and businesses could now start opening their doors to customers on a Sunday. It has since become the norm that car retailers open their dealerships for sales, and that hasn’t changed. The bulk of the trade now opens on Sundays. When I ask senior management why Sunday opening is necessary, they never know – except they’re frightened they may lose a deal to their neighbour. Let’s have a look at the data.

As a marketing analytics business, specialising in helping car dealers understand their marketing response, we see the telephone enquiry data for hundreds of dealers across the UK. As a result, we have deep insight into when prospects are contacting dealers, and which marketing sources are driving these calls.

We’ve looked at total calls across a sample of over 100 dealers. We analysed when calls came into the business by the day of week, as a percentage. We have also looked specifically at Autotrader calls, and the results are as follows:

Graph showing the percentage of calls during a week


Let’s break that down by dealership:

  • The average number calls to a dealer each week is around 280 calls.
  • Out of this 280, eight are from Autotrader.
  • On a Sunday, it’s an average of six phone calls per dealer, and less than one from Autotrader.

Is it worth staffing the dealership for so few calls? And if there are so few phone enquiries, what about other response channels, for example inbound email enquiries and form submissions?

How do phone call enquiries compare to other forms of enquiry?

When we look at the data that comes from lead management systems, we find that these online enquiries stay static across the week at around two leads per day. So, although Sunday is the same as every other day, the actual lead number is not very high. The largest provider of sales leads comes via the telephone.

‘What about walk-ins?’ I hear you ask. This will vary depending on two factors: the size of the dealership, and whether staff load their appointments on a Sunday to give themselves something to do. If a customer is not given the option to come on a Sunday but wants to see a car, they’ll find the time to do it on another day. So if appointment levels is an indicator of staying open, this is a blunt measurement tool.

Potential savings and other benefits

Opening a dealership costs money – not least through the energy costs and staff time. If you take the typical opening times of a dealer, you can see that they are open as follows:

Table showing opening hours of car dealerships

Sunday opening represents 7.9% of the total opening time. This is the scale of the potential saving.

Probably the best benefit of not opening on a Sunday is the effect this will have on your recruitment policy. Telling your sales team and managers they don’t have to work on a Sunday is a significant differentiator. It also makes staff rostering much easier as well. If you are part of a large dealer group, it is worth reflecting on the question of how many of your senior and middle management team members work on a Sunday.

Effect on return on sales

The key concern from dealers that I talk to is that they are missing out on opportunities and the effect this will have on their bottom line. Looking across the dealer groups that don’t open on a Sunday, you can see by their return on sales (ROS) this should not be a concern:

Graph showing the return on sales - year ending 31/12/21



Interestingly, Helston Garages runs a hybrid model (some open, some closed, and their ROS for the year ending 2021 was 4.9%). I’m aware of at least one of the above groups who decided to change their Sunday opening policy during lockdown, never re-opened on Sundays after lockdown, and have no intention of changing this any time soon!

If this blog has piqued your interest and you start looking into closing on a Sunday, is there a hybrid model you could operate to make you feel more comfortable? There definitely is!

Putting it into practice

Covid-19 has shown us all that not only can we manage enquiries from home, but also that customers are doing their research before they come to you. Using call handling technology, it’s easy to move all the enquiries to a central point that can be handled by an individual or small team from the comfort of their own home. They don’t need to come into the dealership – they just need an internet connection. All their activity (phone calls, emails, etc.) can also be remotely monitored as well.

If people come on site when you’re closed on a Sunday, the simple introduction of QR codes (or equivalent), and notices on the main doors, can allow prospects to instantly access your remote sales team. With all the vehicle details at your teams’ fingertips, they’ll be able to deal quickly and effectively with the enquiry – including taking a deposit and booking someone in for an appointment.

With all the rising costs and changing consumer, now is the time to review why you are open on a Sunday. The benefits are there through significant energy savings across the board, as well as improving your ability to attract and retain staff. If you’re part of a large group, you can run a hybrid model of centralising all enquiries and dealing with them properly. Will this affect your bottom line? Judging by the above groups, it would indicate not. Be brave and take the plunge.

About the author - Harry Bott

Harry Bott, Director at Mediahawk, has over 20 years of experience helping marketers generate a better response from their marketing. He has enabled businesses to improve their conversion rates through his consultative approach and deep understanding across various sectors, including automotive and care homes.

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