Auto part dealers seeking to strike a balance with lockdown and commerce

As shuttered businesses throughout the country seek ways to continue servicing customers amid COVID-19 lockdown measures, one company seeking approval from the government to operate under a new model is being met with resistance.

Dwayne Higgs, general manager of Whim Automotive, said he closed his doors as ordered by the prime minister, but would like to strike a balance by allowing his online shoppers to simply collect their purchases.

“We’re the only parts company in The Bahamas to have our entire store on our website as well as e-commerce,” he said.

“That, I feel, is a powerful tool that we can utilize because that would help us to strike a balance.

“We’ve been trying to see if we can open on a limited basis because we understand what’s going on and definitely want to be sensitive to the health and safety of our staff and the public, but at the same [time] there’s just this huge demand for people needing parts needing to service their vehicles.”

Higgs said he has proposed his idea of a drive-through pickup service to provide car parts to customers that need them, but hasn’t had much luck getting approval.

“I’ve emailed the PM three times, the attorney general’s office three times,” he said.

“I’ve called the prime minister’s office six times. I emailed the police COVID-19 hotline and I’ve been told the commissioner is now deciding who opens and if there will be any exemptions. So, I’m trying all these different avenues and I’m not getting a response anywhere.

“We are going to be totally cashless. We’re not accepting any foot traffic, everybody stays in their car. We’re going to create some sort of drive-through. The building goes back quite a bit, so if we can just say no parking and create some sort of drive-through.

“We would only service orders that are placed online on our website. There’s nobody that’s going to be able to walk up and say, ‘I need this.’

“…We’re open to service online orders, which would mean no cash, we’re not taking that risk.”

Higgs, who said his company’s e-commerce offerings have been available for three years now, said more local businesses that have their products and services available for purchase on their websites should adopt a similar model to keep the economy humming as much as possible during these uncertain times.

“This is going to force more people to say, ‘I need to take a look at doing more things online,’” he said.

“I know people in the states that don’t leave their houses if they don’t have to, they have everything delivered. It’s scary in a way because people are living like hermits, but in a case like this it helps.”

Higgs said when he called the police COVID-19 hotline, 311, he was told his request was being considered.

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