A London-based retailer of classic men’s tailoring is bouncing back from the pandemic, with a little help from a smartly finished, electric Mercedes-Benz eVito.
Roderick Charles is using the battery-powered L2 PROGRESSIVE model to move stock between its five outlets in the Square Mile and West End, and a warehouse in the north-west suburb of Willesden, five miles from Charing Cross.
Proprietor Roddy Gale established his company in 1992 and bought his first Mercedes-Benz van a couple of years later. Mr Gale, who has a home in the Lake District, enjoys a long-standing relationship with supplying Dealer Bell Truck and Van, which represents the three-pointed star in the North-East.
Like so many of the capital’s retail and hospitality businesses, Roderick Charles was hit hard by Covid lockdowns that meant office workers and shoppers stayed at home. Mr Gale responded by focusing on and extending its internet offer, a strategy that has certainly paid off. “You have to remain positive in the face of adversity,” he asserted. “If you get glum and think negatively, things will only go one way.”
Roderick Charles has adapted to the ‘new normal’ by introducing more casual menswear lines, but its ready-to-wear and bespoke suits remain every bit as popular with the customers now returning to its stores. “People still appreciate great service as well as great quality,” said Mr Gale. “They may wear a suit less often now, but the corollary to this is that they might also be willing to spend a bit more on it.”
Although footfall and revenues are moving in the right direction again, Mr Gale continues to focus on cost control, and in this respect the eVito makes a positive contribution. The subject of a cost-effective and flexible Agility funding package from Mercedes-Benz Finance, the vehicle is also proving highly cost-effective to run.
“The fact that electric vans are exempt from the London Congestion Charge means we’re at least £300 better off each month,” said Mr Gale. “And with a full charge costing around £18, I’ve calculated that we’re also saving about £60 per week in fuel costs. These are welcome contributions to our ‘bottom line’.”
The eVito is assigned to Esteban Melo-Munoz, who manages the warehouse at which Roderick Charles has installed a Virtus Energy AC fast charging point, which will restore the batteries from empty to full capacity in approximately six hours.
“There’s a benefit in terms of convenience too,” observed Mr Gale, “because Esteban doesn’t have to spend valuable time visiting filling stations. Plus, of course, we want to make our business as eco-friendly as possible, and it’s gratifying to know that by running a van which produces zero tailpipe emissions we’re doing our little bit to mitigate global warming.”
Like its diesel-engined stablemate, the eVito has rear doors that open to 180o and sliding load doors on both sides. These provide easy access, in the case of the L2 variant, to up to 6.0m3 of cargo area – the 41 kWh battery is securely mounted in a protective housing beneath the floor, so does not impinge on the available space.
The vehicle offers an average range on a full battery charge of 91-92 miles (WLTP combined), substantially more than the 50-mile maximum Roderick Charles would require in a single day to transport garments between its warehouse and five retail outlets.
Stylishly finished in Granite Green with colour-coded bumpers, the vehicle’s exhaustive PROGRESSIVE specification includes TEMPMATIC air conditioning, a DAB radio with colour touchscreen, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and a reversing camera.
The optional PLUS package adds PARKTRONIC parking sensors, electrically folding exterior mirrors and full wheel covers, while standard-fit double locks and an integrated Thatcham-approved alarm system provide security.
“Esteban really likes his new van, which he tells me is exceptionally smooth and comfortable to drive, and very well appointed,” confirmed Roddy Gale. “It looks extremely smart in our livery too, so doubles as an attractive mobile advertisement for our business.”
He added: “The eVito is just the latest of a succession of vans I’ve bought from Bell Truck and Van Sales Executive Gary Stephenson. The Dealer is not exactly on our doorstep but Gary provides an excellent service. He’s very easy to deal with and has always looked after me – if I have a business relationship like that with somebody then I don’t tend to look elsewhere.”