Shepshed Auto Spares, also known as SAS, operate in a similar way to its elite combat troop abbreviation namesake where precision and efficiency is key.
The three directors who started SAS, all worked together at the Birmingham-based wholesaler Motor City, and in 1999 decided to try their hand at Motor Factoring.
Rob Hooper, one of SAS’s directors, said: “We saw an opportunity to use our knowledge gained working within wholesaling to open a Motor Factor using a more modern, IT-based approach to operating systems.”
Fourteen years on, and I have to agree that their approach to the business has worked out well, however, with the influx of American money, the squeeze on profit margins adds different challenges to preserving the longevity of the business.
Hooper said: “As an independent we face different challenges every day, but we continue to concentrate our efforts on the same simple values that we put in place when we started the business. We endeavour to ensure that we offer quality parts, delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
“We put time and effort into our business, and we care about our customers and their needs. We are constantly looking at new avenues to set ourselves apart from the competition and offer our customers a one-stop-shop in order to become their first phone call.”
SAS has continuously tried to find ways to expand the business, and now offers a second range on all key lines as well as launching into new areas such as motorcycle parts, paint mixing and tyres.
Hooper said: “We have faced challenges from the day we opened, but isn’t that what it is all about? If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.”
One concept that SAS recently introduced is tyre sales and fellow director Spencer Parkin explains the reason behind this move.
“Tyres are a product that most factors shy away from,” he said. “When we entered the market we knew that we would have to offer a service above and beyond that which our competitors offered, so we decided to offer a loose fit service to smaller garages that have no facilities to fit tyres themselves.”
“We collect the wheels, bring them back to our onsite fitting bay, fit new tyres, re-valve and balance the wheel and return them to the customer. When we launched tyres two years ago, it added 10 percent to our turnover overnight.”
Hooper said: “We added an additional income stream to those garages without tyre fitting equipment as well as an improved service to customers who purely wanted to buy tyres. As there is no additional transport cost involved, it made perfect sense to us.”
SAS prides itself on the quality of service it provides to its customers and to ensure this remains key in the operation, it has invested heavily into IT systems and integration development.
Hooper said: “All our vehicles are tracked, and we have invested time and money in developing the MAM driver’s board system. Now, when customers ask when their delivery will arrive, we can inform them confidently and accurately, we don’t use the phrase “It’s just around the corner, mate”. We want to give customers solid accurate information as they need to plan their day.”
Parkin explains that SAS embraces technology as much as it can and that developments in new hardware, software and structure help give it an advantage over the competition. However a lot of hard work was needed to get the business where it is now.
“A large amount of time was involved with the implementation of the MAM driver’s board system to ensure that we would improve our delivery times to customers,” said Parkin. “The driver’s board improved productivity by 15 percent and enabled us to expand our delivery service without the need to employ more drivers.”
“We pride ourselves on all of our automated systems internally, and we would like to go to the next stage, where deliveries are signed for digitally, sending a message to customers that their parts have been dispatched and what the estimated time of delivery will be. We would like to move to that level.”
It is a bold move, but SAS know if they want to thrive, they need to keep evolving.