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THE CHANGING FACE OF RETAIL

After a grim few months on the High Street, we speak to retailers and suppliers in our sector to find how they have adapted

WMS shop floor

Let’s not beat about the bush here: 2018 has so far been a terrible year to be a High Street retailer. There have been numerous high profile casualties such as Toys R Us and electronics giant Maplins as well as clothing retailers such as New Look, Claire’s Accessories and Jones the Bootmaker either calling in the receivers or announcing drastic restructuring.

Even restaurants in the so-called ‘smart casual’ dining sector, which for a long time were lauded as saviours of dwindling town centre, seem to have hit bad times. Carluccios, Prezzo and pretty well all of the outlets in TV chef Jamie Oliver’s portfolio have announced drastic closure programmes. It isn’t ideal.

Nonetheless, traditional accessory shops have adapted as best as they can to the changing face of the retail environment: The days of Ray D’Ator (CAT’s longtime accessory shop owner turned columnist) scowling at people over the counter, and his attitude of ‘you don’t want it looking too smart, people will think they can’t afford it’ are well and truly over.

SHOP ENVIRONMENT
Indeed, it is the opinion of the accessory retailers we spoke to is that the environment has changed significantly over the last couple of years, leading them to revise their offering. “There’s a change in consumer behaviour due to cars being less easy to work on therefore fewer DIY mechanics to serve” noted Jonathan Rogers of Wrexham Motoring Supplies. “We do a lot of free fits now when it comes to bulbs, batteries, wipers etc and we have noticed a significant increase in this service. This is directly in line with inf lating garage hourly rates and people being forced into looking elsewhere for fitting.”

Richard Shortis, Managing Director of regional chain Wico, said: “The range of product has increased as a result of the changing marketplace. Gone are the days of two different headlight bulbs, now there are about 10 – and that’s not including all the different upgrade versions.” Shortis adds that a noticeable change in the key categories of bulbs and wipers is that (with the possible exception of high-output bulbs) the parts wear out more slowly, and need changing less frequently. However, more customers are asking for the bulbs and blades to be changed for them, which Wilco will do for a fee.

One retailer who feels the environment has not changed significantly is A1 founding member and accessory shop owner Joe Elliott. “Has the environment changed in the last two years? Not really, business has remained consistent,” he said. “It’s busy when its cold and its OK the rest of the time.”

Push bike sales in decline

Despite this, Elliott says that he has noticed more sales in touring equipment. “I think the increase in sales of roof bars and WMS shop floor boxes are due to development in the leisure market. More families these days take part in more leisure activities throughout the year,” he said. “Roof boxes, expensive as they can be, it can often be cheaper to buy one and all the malarky that goes with it (instead of renting one on multiple occasions or shelling out for a larger car).”

Despite the rise in sales, he describes the competition from online vendors in the leisure category as ‘absolutely tremendous’ and he counters it by offering good service and free fitting. Indeed, it is the fitting offer to which Elliott attributes the company’s ‘edge’. “Apart from one very brief period, at Elliots, we have always offered free fitting on any accessory, whether that is bulbs, wipers or roof boxes. This policy has bought us a tremendous amount of kudos within the city. When we tried charging, we lost our edge. We have seen sales dramatically increase since we went back to free fitting.”

PUSH BIKE SALES
One area that appears to be in decline, or at least not as profitable as everyone hoped, is the sale of push bikes. “We did dip our toes into the cycle side a few years ago but quickly realised how saturated the market was,” explained Jon Rogers, adding that there is more to cycle retailing than simply stocking a few bikes. “We are clearing out of push bikes,” concurred Joe Elliott. “We went to a lot of trouble and expense setting up as a cycle repair shop, but for some reason it just hasn’t worked.”

“The other issue is that the Push bike sales in decline venture capitalist have come into the cycle industry… and we all know how they were when they went into the motor factor side of our trade,” said Richard Shortis, adding that pedal-electric bikes were a growing segment, albeit one that was growing from a very low base.

So the message from the market is adapt fast and respond to new trends – and don’t be afraid to try something new. Just be prepared that not every new trend (particularly in our sector) is going to fly.

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OIL SUPPLIERS STRIKE DEALS

Lucas Oil MD Les Downey

CV factor Digraph has inked a deal with lubricant firm Millers Oil. The move follows the factor chain’s expansion plans .

“As we continue to support the CV market, we were keen to partner with a company that has an innovative roadmap for growth”, notes Andy Black, Platform Business Manager at Millers Oil. “Digraph has exciting development plans and is recognised for its service and support. We are looking forward to driving innovation together”.

Elsewhere, France-based lube supplier Motul has done a deal with Automotive Brands to distribute it’s passenger car oil range in the UK.

Gunter Steven, Head of BU Sales Export for Motul, said, “To also have the opportunity to work with Automotive Brands to expand our presence in the UK Aftermarket sector was an  exciting opportunity for us both. We are delighted to work together”

Motul was already a sponsor of Automotive Brands’ Power Maxed Racing and prior to the distribution deal had renewed sponsorship of PMR’s Astra touring cars for the new season.

On a similar note, A1 Motor Stores now distributes Lucas Oil products, after the latter received ‘Approved Supplier’ status from the group.

Commenting on this partnership, Lucas Oil MD Les Downey, said: “It’s an exciting time for us. It is a terrific opportunity for us and for A1 members, too”.
He added: “We will be working directly with them to increase product awareness and to boost sales”.

Meanwhile, garage aggregator WhoCanFixMyCar has arranged a partnership with Shell. The website and the oil major will share stand space at the upcoming Automechanika Birmingham. Al Preston, co-founder of WhoCanFixMyCar. com, said, “We’re excited to be returning to Automechanika Birmingham. I’m sure it’ll be better than ever, especially as we’re partnering with Shell”.

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GKN MELROSE: POLITICAL REACTION TO HOSTILE TAKEOVER

Melrose Industries has narrowly won its hostile takeover bid for GKN.

Following a ten-week battle that saw a war of words from GKN management as well as a number of alternative deals on the table, including a proposal from car parts maker Dana, the shareholders decided by a margin of 52 percent to sell to Melrose.

Despite assurances from Melrose, fears that the new buyer will simply wage a campaign of asset stripping as the takeover promises £8bn to be returned to shareholders, which will inevitably involve selling off parts of the business. Apart from car parts, GKN produces aviation components and has a number of defence contracts, leading to some speculation in the mainstream press that the deal might be stopped on national security grounds.

Business Secretary Greg Clark sought assurances from Melrose, saying that no company was ‘immune’ from takeover. Critics were keen to point out that such ‘assurances’ mean little in law, as was demonstrated when Kraft went back on promises made to Cadbury in 2009.

However, Defence Secretary Gavin Williams appears not to share Clark’s lasse-fare opinion, as he is reported as having ‘serious concerns’ about such a deal.

Former Defence Secretary [and owner of Haymarket Group] Lord Heseltine is quoted in the FT as saying that ‘no other country of our sort’ would allow the deal to go through.

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has said that the deal ‘must be stopped’ and that it does not make any sense ‘to put the interests of city speculators over the national interest’.

On completion of the deal, the Head Office in Reddich is tipped to be the first part of the operation to close.

 

 

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PUTTING A CAP ON EMISSIONS

There are plenty of filters out there, but how are suppliers helping garages with their selection?

TPS anti allegen dust and pollen filter

It’s hardly news that emissions are hot on the VMs’ agenda, notably with the ongoing initiatives encouraging customers to swap out their older diesel vehicles for cash to put towards a newer model. Whilst scrappage schemes have been widely adopted by the former, suppliers are also playing their part in filtering out contaminants that would otherwise cause engine damage and discomfort for motorists if left unattended.

AIR/CABIN AIR FILTERS
Jonathan Walker, Managing Director of manufacturer Mahle Aftermarket UK, says that as a general rule of thumb, technicians should be replacing cabin air filters at regular service intervals as a clogged filter is still a major contributing factor for under performance of the A/C system and losses in engine power. He also mentions that the installation procedure is not always plain sailing: “Fitting cabin filters is increasingly complex and garages spend a lot of time locating and removing other components to ensure a correct fit”, he replied, “Fixed price service has arguably had a negative impact as the time spent on replacing cabin filters becomes more pressurised. It all equates to the biggest contributor of failure, which is a clogged cabin filter.”

To assist workshops with these practices, Walker highlights that Mahle’s CareMetix cabin filters have played a crucial role in communicating these messages whilst offering improved health and wellbeing benefits for end- users. He elaborated: “Our Caremetix range comprises of a five-layer cabin filter specially designed to improve passenger health and wellbeing by removing nasty odours and harmful contaminants from vehicle cabins.” He continued. “Garages can offer customers a tangible difference as the innovative range provides five- layer protection against allergens, brake dust, diesel soot, fine particulates and tyre debris that is proven to enter a car from exhaust fumes.”

Attempting to achieve a similar goal is Hella Hengst, a distribution partnership between Hella and filtration brand Hengst which launched last year. “The focus is to support workshops with point of sale material and marketing strategies that help inform the end user of products being fitted”, said Mark Adams, Product Manager at the firm. “The company also takes extra steps to include fitting instructions/ location guides for its cabin filters, which reduces time and allows workshops to maximise profit.” Adding that the supplied content points out the ‘benefits of premium quality products against the dangers of using those of an inferior design’.

ENVIRONMENT
Michelle Smith, Marketing Manager at TPS, explains that the organisation is economising through its Genuine Parts Range, with new pleated technologies. “In terms of materials, the filter media contains cellulose fibers which protects it against moisture, oil and fuel vapours. Depending on the application, fully synthetic filter media with a multilayer structure or with an additional nanofiber coating are used”. Smith noted, “Our Genuine Air Filters incorporate the latest materials and pleat technology to ensure that both performance and fuel economy are maintained throughout service life. In addition, our pleat technology has the ability to absorb dirt and dust particles whilst maintaining the optimum air f low into the engine for efficient combustion”.

HELLA Hengst portfolio

Sogefi’s Sales Manager, Jonathan Brooke said “Car drivers are not enough aware of the benefits of changing the cabin filters for their well-being. “The garages should more systematically inform their customers of these benefits. One good reason for doing it is that the end users can really feel the improvement: less dust and odours, better ventilation and defogging. These are strong selling points, that the customer will appreciate. In many cases the fact of showing the used filter – full of dirt and pollution- is the best selling argument.

THE FUTURE OF FILTERS
Touching back on the diesel market, UFI Filters Sales Manager Karl Ridings says the firm is armed and ready to service the next generation of vehicles complying with Euro Six and Seven standards. Speaking about this in more depth, he
said: “Thanks to the investments in R&D we supply filters like the Gen2Plus diesel filter”. He added: “Based on the availability of these technologies, UFI looks very confident in the future of diesel filter sales”.

Miten Parikh, General Manager at Comline, concurs and builds on Ridings statement, outlining that this ecological- type filter is becoming a more desirable choice among VMs particularly for their air modules. “As vehicle manufacturers become ever- more environmentally conscious the ecological-type filter is becoming more prevalent”, he continued. “Manufactured entirely from recyclable materials, many modern applications use this type of air filter and this trend seems likely to continue. Comline has in its range a number of fuel filter references with built-in water separators and sensors”.

With the multiple filter options available, workshops will certainly not be left starved of products that will result in repeat business and happy customers bearing in mind they follow the procedures outlined in this article.

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GDPR: WHAT’S THE FUSS?

Time is running out to get your ship in order for new data regulations

The act of putting one product in the carton of another is something that we all know happens throughout the aftermarket at all levels.

There’s one product in particular that we know is packed in the UK in a dozen or more brand images – and no doubt there are others.

There has been little in the news about the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect on 25 May, so it is hardly surprising that there are many people that either have no idea about it or assume that it has anything to do with them. Put simply, GDPR will give teeth to existing legislation, the Data Protection Act (DPA) and according to consumer polls, over a third of Britons are already anticipating to exercise their rights in accordance with this legislation.

But what does it all mean and more importantly what does it have to do with fixing cars? It is easy to brush off this kind of change, assuming that it only applies to big companies like chain fast-fits and dealerships that obviously have some sort of ivory tower that churns out policies and small print in a factory like manner. They are used to being sued right? They have all the means to support all this bureaucratic nonsense and the small company that only employs a couple of people won’t have to worry about this kind of EU nonsense, plus Brexit and everything else…

Unfortunately this is not the case, this change has happened and it is coming in the next couple of months. On that day and every day after this new responsibility will be handed over to you regardless of your preparedness. A bit like becoming a parent really, only without the panting and sweating that you get to herald this kind of immediate change. So what exactly is it?

THE ACT
To break it down, The Data Protection Act (DPA) was introduced in 1998 to protect the rights of the individual with regards to their personal data and how it is processed. A lot has changed since then, particularly the quantity of data that is collected and the complexity of locations of where it is stored have changed dramatically.

Most of the legislation from DPA will remain the same, GPDR will enforce certain elements of it and although GDPR is an EU directive it will be incorporated into British law post Brexit.

Louder for the people at the back, whether we are in or out we are keeping this.

Before moving on, it is worth clearly defining what we mean when talking about processing data, especially in the context of General Data Protection Regulation.

At its most basic definition this refers to any operation performed using personal data, it does not matter if this is automated, handwritten or typed into a spreadsheet. This includes and is not restricted to collecting it, organising it, structuring it, storing it, retrieving it, sharing it and a whole lot else. The official definition can be found on the Information Commissioner’s Office website.

In short, it will now be considered a breach of data if information that is protected by this legislation is not securely stored. This is so serious that even if a breach of data has not occurred, poor management of this data will be treated in the same manner as if the breach has occurred. Dumb luck is not rewarded. If an organisation has been targeted for data theft or even if a suspicion that data has been potentially put at risk there is guidance on the ICO website on how to manage and report such an incidence, and the ICO are keen to push the ‘tell us everything and tell us quickly’ message in the same way you would speak to your insurance company and the police if someone had broke into your premises.

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AUTOMECHANIKA BIRMINGHAM WINS INDUSTRY AWARDS

PROMOTION ARTICE ON BEHALF OF AUTOMECHANIKA BIRMINGHAM

Automechanika Birmingham team

Automechanika Birmingham has won two industry awards for the hugely successful second edition of the UK’s leading exhibition for the automotive aftermarket and vehicle production industry.

The Automechanika Birmingham team proudly took to the stage to collect two awards on Friday 23rd March for Best Trade Show and the Best Independent Organiser in 2017 at the prestigious Exhibition News Awards.

The 2017 exhibition sold a staggering 5,000 square metres before the 2016 exhibition had even taken place and achieved a 45% increase in the number of exhibitors overall. The exhibition welcomed over 12,000 visitors through the doors to see over 800 exhibitors from the aftermarket and vehicle production sector.

Simon Albert, Event Director said “Now in our third year of Automechanika Birmingham, the team and I are grateful for the support of our exhibitors, visitors, partners in helping to making the industry’s event a huge success. We are now only 10 weeks away from the 2018 event – we have introduced a raft of new initiatives to suit the entire automotive industry. New elements include a dedicated hall for garage businesses as well as areas for retailers and free business advice, a meeting’s programme to encourage business conversations on exhibitor stands, new live demonstrations and free training from the experts! We look forward to welcoming everyone from 5-7 June 2018 at the NEC”

The two awards follow a further four accolades that the team at Automechanika Birmingham have achieved across the previous two years.

Visitors can register free at www.automechanika-birmingham.com

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RING LAUNCHES EUROPEAN OFFICES

Lighting and accessories brand Ring Automotive has invested £200,000 in a Paris office which is now open for business.

The expansion is part of the firm’s product development plans, that has led to some new appointments within its international team.

Carlos Carrido, Stephan Schneider and Sebastien Richir have been appointed as Sales Managers to improve exports to customers in countries including Spain, Portugal as well as Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Richier will join Ring’s International Business Director Gonzalo Vargas-Zuniga Cruz at the EU office in Le Dome, part of the Roissypole complex of buildings at Roissy Charles de Gaulle International Airport, while the other recruits will work across the continent and have access to the HQ as and when required.

“Approximately a quarter of our sales can be attributed to exports giving some indication of the opportunity that extending our presence across Europe represents,” said Cruz. He concluded. “We know that our sales channels and performance across these markets has significantly improved over recent years and this investment will further reinforce our commitment as we build our portfolio of customers.”

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DANA MAKES BID FOR GKN

U.S-based car parts maker Dana has made a bid for embattled engineering giant GKN.

A report in the FT says that Dana will offer $6bn for the drivetrain division and will consider opening a secondary listing on the London stock exchange.

GKN’s drivetrain business combined with Dana’s existing contracts would give shareholders 47 percent of the world’s biggest drive system supplier with annual sales of $14bn according to the paper.

Jim Kamsickas, Chief Exec of Dana was clear that the combination of the two firm’s strengths in road vehicle engineering was undisputable. “It would be impossible to poke a hole in this industrially” he said.

The new bid is in addition to the hostile offer to shareholders from Melrose Industries, previously reported on. The board of GKN has rejected the bid, but shareholders are currently considering it.

However, the Melrose bit is neither popular with the management, nor some key clients. Tom Williams, CEO of Airbus has been quoted as saying that it would be ‘impossible’ to work with the engineering company under a short-term business model.

“The industry does not lend itself to shorter term financial investment which naturally reduces R&D, budgets and limits vital innovation,” he told the Reuters news agency.

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TPS OPENS NEW CENTRES

TPS Bolton branch

Volkswagen Group Genuine Parts supplier TPS has expanded its network with the addition of a new distribution hub in Bolton and Watford.

The move comes as part of the firm’s growth strategy to reach more customers within these respective regions.

The Bolton branch comprises of a 5,400 sq ft facility, housing eight staff, two vans with four drivers delivering within a 25 minute radius of the centre.

Matthew Sheldon, Bolton TPS Centre Manager, said: “The new Bolton centre has made a huge difference as we can now reach a lot more customers than before and that gives us a great opportunity to grow the business. “He added: “In previously servicing the region from our Oldham site we would experience difficulties getting across the M60 but the new location overcomes that obstacle and enables us to provide a much faster and on demand service.”

Meanwhile, the Watford premises contains a  5,000 sq ft warehouse, consisting of 5,000 product lines of stock and 18 employees headed by its TPS Centre Manager Sean Willis.

Speaking of the new site, Willis said: “We have only been open since January but we have already got off to a really strong start and are currently servicing around a 165 strong customer base.

“We have been able to create a good territory, right in the middle of the area we service with a lot of improvements including increased stock holding capacity and better speed of delivery. It’s been a positive start but the proof in the pudding will be in the eating as we look to grow our customer base and take the business forward.”

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COULD YOU BE GARAGE OF THE YEAR 2018?

PROMOTION ARTICLE ON BEHALF OF AUTOMECHANIKA

Automechanika Birmingham is calling on independent garages across the UK to enter its  ‘Garage of the Year’ award, returning for its second year and will be bigger than ever before.

The competition is open to all garages across the United Kingdom, with entrants explaining the reasons why they should win the coveted award and walk away with £1000. This year, there are six categories for garages to enter, recognising the diversity of UK garage businesses.

The winner of each category will be announced at an evening dinner to be held at The Director’s Club, Aston Villa FC on 5 June, which all category finalists will be invited to attend free of charge. The overall Garage of the Year winner will then be announced at the show on 6 June from these six category winners.

Last year’s first-ever ‘Garage of the Year’ award was won by local garage MotorServ-UK Solihull, which gained the most votes in the battle for top spot, with Philips Garage Ltd from Glasgow narrowly missing out and finishing second overall, and Shropshire-based garage EAC Telford coming third.

This year’s categories are:

• Best Small Garage
• Best Large Garage
• Best Community Initiative award
• ‘Auto-mechanik’ of the Year
• Technology Innovation Award
• Business Innovation Award

Simon Albert, Managing Director of Automechanika Birmingham, said: “The awards this year take on an exciting new development with an evening dinner to name the category winners and celebrate their achievement.

“Last year 75 garages entered – we anticipate that number to significantly increase this year. The finalists will all benefit from a raised business profile, these awards are a great way to reward the hard work and contribution that garages give to the automotive industry.”

The award is being run in partnership with Garage Wire. Interested garages are advised to ‘save the dates’ of 5-6 June and look out for more details in the near future. Anyone interested in entering can get the entry form here

The competition is part of a larger offering for garages at the 2018 exhibition. The organisers have introduced a dedicated Garage Quarter offering over 130 suppliers of tools and workshop equipment, services and innovative products as well as a Garage Social area. End users will benefit from a new specialist demo hub which will showcase live action across body repair and vehicle customisation as well as a Business Services Village giving garages free advice on how to run a business more efficiently. The ever popular Workshop Training Hub will return for 2018, bigger and better than before including expert speakers and free training. The Garage Quarter will stay open on Wednesday 6 June until 7pm to allow business owners and technicians to make the most out of their day out of the workshop.

Garage visitors will also benefit from free parking at the NEC and free breakfast upon arrival. Visitors looking to sign up can register for their free ticket here: https://www.automechanika-birmingham.com/welcome/get-your-free-ticket

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