Customers eager as stores and auto dealerships reopen after two months

Auto dealers got to welcome back customers to their showrooms on Tuesday for the first time in...
Auto dealers got to welcome back customers to their showrooms on Tuesday for the first time in two months. (WJRT)
Published: May. 26, 2020 at 7:27 PM EDT
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(5/26/2020) - Tuesday was a big day for retailers and auto dealers around Michigan, who finally got to welcome back customers after more than two months.

A statewide order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer allowed stores and dealerships to reopen Tuesday by appointment only, as long as they abide by all other orders.

Businesses reported a good first day back.

"Our customers have been banging on the doors and windows and calling us asking us how to get in and what they need to do to be here shopping today," said Kim Dinger, who owns Kim Rose Fashions in Grand Blanc.

Chris Graff of Graff Chevrolet in Davison heard from a lot of customers eager to come inside and test drive a new ride.

"People are calling ahead or texting us or emailing us setting an appointment," he said.

Sure it sounds great that customers can now actually go, look or try on what they're buying. But gone are the casual days of convenience shopping -- at least for now.

"By the mandate, having an appointment," Dinger said. "We have a lot of people reaching out to us on Facebook and calling and texting saying, hey we wanna come in and go shopping. So definitely make an appointment."

Car sales will continue online, but Graff said test drives haven't been available for a while and dealerships can offer them again by appointment only. They are taking plenty of precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Customers at Kim Rose Fashions will be expected to don their own fine fashionable mask to make sure their noses and mouths are covered. Only four people per 1,000 square feet will be allowed in retail stores at a time and must follow social distancing rules.

But the scope of customer health and safety doesn't stop there.

"We are sanitizing our surfaces, especially like our Visa machine, things that really people come in contact with," Dinger said. "We also have an area around our counter that they cannot get too close to our employees, so we want to protect our employees as much as our customers. And our dressing rooms are now socially distanced."

Graff Chevrolet employees are taking similar precautions in their showrooms and inside vehicles between test drives.

"We're masking up. We're cleaning. We're sanitizing ourselves -- spraying our way into the car and out of the car," Graff said.

For customers not ready to visit a showroom yet, he said the entire car buying process can still be done all online. Buyers can pick out the exact make, model and features they want, look at pictures, watch videos and go through the entire credit application process.

Dealers will even deliver new vehicles directly to customers.