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GOVERNMENT PROBE INTO HAND CAR WASHES

GOVERNMENT PROBE INTO HAND CAR WASHES

Investigation into hand car washes begins

A parliamentary committee is to look into how damaging hand car washes are to the environment.

The Environmental Audit Committee will examine how the impact of hand car washes differs from automatic ones. It will look at how effective regulation is and what steps central government might take to ensure that these businesses are operated sustainably.

Although the focus of the Committee’s inquiry will be on environmental issues, another body, the Independent Anti- Slavery Commission has produced a list of indications of exploitation at hand car washes, which the Committee will also seek answers for.

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: “Our inquiry will look at the environmental impact of hand car washes and ask how effective the regulations that govern them are. It will also ask the Government how it is meeting its commitments under the UN Sustainable Development Goals to reduce human exploitation.”

Reacting to the news, Brian Madderson, Chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association commented: “The PRA is pleased to see the Committee is holding the Government to account on an industry that is in breach of several regulations.”

“We have been lobbying DEFRA repeatedly over the lack of enforcement regarding the estimated 6,500 cubic metres of chemical trade effluent produced by hand car washes, which pollutes local water courses. We have also met with officials from both the Home Office and the Treasury Select Committee to discuss breaches of the Modern Slavery Act and the millions of pounds lost in tax revenues,” he concluded.

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WRS MOTOR FACTORS JOINS A1 BUYING GROUP

WRS MOTOR FACTORS JOINS A1 BUYING GROUP

Somerset-based WRS Motor Factors Ltd has joined buying group A1.

New brands will arrive at WRS

Weston Recovery Services (WRS) was established in Weston-Super-Mare by Robert and Lynn Hopkins in 1983. Today, it has an around the clock breakdown and recovery service.

WRS Motor Factors Ltd was subsequently incorporated in 2006 after some years trading under the Weston Recovery Services umbrella. Operating out of four branches across the Somerset area; Weston-Super-Mare, Shepton Mallet, Wellington and Bridgwater, it supplies many brands such as NGK, Lucas, Mahle and Britpart, as well as stocking a full range of Motaquip products.

Martin Tier of WRS, said: “It’s very important that we have a voice and aren’t just a number and after speaking with them, we feel A1 offer the right environment for us.

“Communication is a key part of this group,” says Simon Salloway, Head of Operations at A1. “We’re all working together. Everyone’s feedback and input is valued, and our combined knowledge and purchasing power form the foundations of our collective success. By listening to each other and working together, we can get a stronger hold in this increasingly competitive industry.”

The businesses trade as WRS Motaquip and this won’t change as the company will continue to buy hard parts from Motaquip. However, the move will widen the factor’s access to brands.

The A1 Motor Factor Group has added a number of well- known names to its network of suppliers in recent months. These include Hella-Hengst, Federal-Mogul and National Auto Parts.

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EPIC ACCESSORIES GETS TRICO VAN

EPIC ACCESSORIES GETS TRICO VAN

New sporty van for Epic Accessories

Wiper blade brand Trico has presented Epic Accessories with a Trico liveried Ford Fiesta van, after the latter achieved its target during the former’s three-month promotion last year.

The vehicle was handed over to Epic Accessories owner Samantha Gutteridge at the A1 buying group’s spring trade show, which took place at the Whittlebury Hall in Towcester last month.

Speaking of her firm’s new addition, Gutteridge said: “The new vehicle will help us on both a promotional and practical level in getting the message out to potential customers that we fit wiper blades in our designated fitting bay at the rear of our store, so a huge thanks to Trico.”

Sam Robinson, Product Manager at Trico, added: “The show was a great success for us, in particular our promotional offer on Neoform retro-fit beam blades, which was well received with a number of members who placed orders for a merchandise box on the day. We also agreed plans with various members to help boost their sales, including supply of in-store signage, as well as training days to educate and support their staff on selling and fitting Trico blades.”

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MEETING THE BENTLEY BOYS

MEETING THE BENTLEY BOYS

William Medcalf talks us through his preparation business for vintage Bentleys

William Medcalf

Let’s say you are thinking of going on an endurance rally, what car would you take? By endurance, I mean a long, long distance across far-flung and generally inaccessible corners of the world with stretches covering unmade or non-existent roads. You might think about taking a tough four wheel drive that you could get parts for anywhere, a Toyota Land Cruiser perhaps, or a suitably prepared Subaru Impreza.

What you probably wouldn’t consider taking for such long jaunts is a pre-Rolls-Royce era Bentley. Apart from the fact the youngest machine is now 87 years old, you can consider it a given that any roadside factor you might find in the Gobi desert, the jungles of Borneo or the Canadian wilderness won’t have that many parts on the shelf. That’s before we mention that the minimum you can get your name on the logbook for one of these cars is about £300,000 – and this could easily exceed £4m if you were able to persuade one of the owners of the super-rare Blower Bentley to sell it to you.

It’s surprising then that William Medcalf, owner of the eponymous one-make specialist in Sussex says that many of his clients do take their cars on such jaunts. “Around 60 percent of our clientele like to take their cars on rallies,” he tells us as we walk into his workshop, adding that pretty much all of the cars that he looks after are in regular use and not simply museum pieces.

Bentley showroom

RALLIES
Clearly, all of these cars need to be suitably prepared for the epic jaunts they are regularly run on. The balance to be struck is how to make any modifications in keeping with the original car, and reversible if the owner chooses to put it back to entirely standard. To this end, Medcalf employs engineers rather than vehicle technicians and the firm has invested a lot of money in computer design, 3d printing and milling machines. “I’d like to think that if W.O Bentley was here, he’d look at some of our designs and he’d nod in agreement’ Medcalf said, while showing me the internals of a differential that had been made out of a piece of solid billet. “Everyone wants the modifications because you can go and drive the thing around the world. What we are not doing is turning it into something different: It’s all Bentley engineering and Bentley ethos,” he furthered.

There are plenty of other examples of this sensitive approach to making the vehicles more usable. On our visit, an engineer had the drawings for a clutch up on the computer. Previously a clutch failure could mean the car having to be shipped home without completing the rally, but by using the fittings that are already there, Medcalf’s team have developed a clutch that can be replaced far more easily.

All aspects of prep and restoration can be undertaken at the workshop. Apart from mechanical work, bodywork can be restored, welding can be undertake und there’s even a fully-equipped woodworking bench, serving as a reminder that when these cars were new, coachbuilders would have been most familiar in doing exactly that: building horse drawn carriages.

MODERN METHODS
While some of the work might have its roots in the 1800s, the industrial processes in place are not. Despite the one-off nature of working on these cars, every job is coded to a computer- based garage management system, measuring the time and materials each engineer is using on a task. “There are no projects gathering dust in the corner, to be worked on ‘as and when’” explained Medcalf. “Apart from anything else, we simply don’t have the space to clutter up.” The stockroom on the upper mezzanine is a sight to behold. With 15,000 lines, there are a lot of items in the stock drawers that look familiar, but on closer inspection are certainly not. “These screws for instance” says Medcalf, pulling out a bag of machine screws, “Are a size specified by W.O and they aren’t found anywhere else except on a Bentley engine. You can use a different size screw, but there are 136 in an engine and we make them in the original size, and with the right number in the packet – so why use the wrong ones when we have the right ones on the shelf ?”

In-house manufacturing

Other ex-stock parts include beautiful brass water rails and radiators, which are identical to the originals, only with slightly strengthened gussets to prevent blown rads in when running in hot climates. There are fun items like Castrol filler jugs, ranging to the more usual, such as bearing sets. One SKU of note is a copper gasket set, which there are plenty of in the stock location. “You could literally walk in here and buy a gasket set for a ninety year- old car. I’ll bet you couldn’t walk into a BMW dealer and buy a gasket set off the shelf for something built today,” noted Medcalf. They will happily bring engineers and parts to wherever their customers need them as well: Recently one of the team walked through Medcalf’s door on a Friday before a Bank Holiday and walked out with a ticket on the next flight to Tokyo and a differential as a regular client needed repair at the start of a rally stage. A friendly local (in Tokyo) garage was found, the part was fitted, and Medcalf’s employee was back at work in Sussex on the Tuesday. Apparently this is not uncommon.

NEW DESIGNS
New designs for parts are tested on Medcalf ’s own car (which by his own admission is regularly ‘murdered’ on rallies) but there is a plan to take development of parts design a step further. The firm has struck up a partnership with the University of Sussex to produce a ‘Knowledge Transfer Partnership.’ Simply put, the University has assigned a graduate to work with the business, effectively as an employee, for two years, looking at ways, no matter how small, that the understanding and engineering of vintage Bentleys can be honed. The idea is that new skills, and the latest academic thinking can be applied to help the business further streamline and innovate new methods of production. It sounds like an interesting project, and one we’d be interested in learning more about when it concludes.

If you want a vintage Bentley, the business also has a showroom with some cars for sale. Obviously the market is somewhat limited: Out of the estimated 1,600 cars remaining the majority are in the hands of people who neither want or need to sell them. Nonetheless, there are half a dozen cars on sale in the showroom on our visit, ranging from a fabric body doctor’s coupe (complete with cadish accessories in the boot that include a shotgun store, a sink and a fold out bar!) to a concours winning tourer and a blower replica. You’d need to bring some bunce with you though: The cars in the showroom start at £300,000 and range to well over a million.

So if you fancy taking on a new hobby and you have some spare time and a few hundred thousand quid in your back pocket, then you should visit the one-stop-shop for everything Bentley.

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TENNECO ACQUIRES FEDERAL MOGUL

TENNECO ACQUIRES FEDERAL MOGUL

Emission parts firm Tenneco has acquired Federal Mogul from Icahn Enterprises in a deal valued at $5.4B.

Following the acquisition, Tenneco has also announced its intention to separate the combined businesses into two independent, publicly traded companies through a tax-free spin-off to shareholders; establishing,  ‘Aftermarket & Ride Performance Company’ and ‘Powertrain Technology Company’. The agreement is expected to complete in the second half of 2018, subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals with the separation taking place in late 2019.

Brian Kesseler, CEO of Tenneco, said: “Federal-Mogul brings strong brands, products and capabilities that are complementary to Tenneco’s portfolio and in line with our successful growth strategies. Unleashing two new product focused companies with even stronger portfolios will allow them to move faster in executing on their specific growth priorities.”

Carl C. Icahn, Chairman of Icahn Enterprises, added: “Icahn Enterprises acquired majority control of Federal-Mogul in 2008 when we saw an out-of-favor market opportunity for a great company. I am very proud of the business we have built at Federal-Mogul and agree with Tenneco regarding the tremendous value in the business combination and separation into two companies. We expect to be meaningful stockholders of Tenneco going forward and are excited about the prospects for additional value creation,” he concluded.

Posted in Exhausts, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, Latest News, News, Retailer News, Shock AbsorbersComments (0)

EURO CAR PARTS ACQUIRES NEW WAREHOUSES

EURO CAR PARTS ACQUIRES NEW WAREHOUSES

Two sites, similar to this, have been acquired by ECP

Factor chain Euro Car Parts has acquired trade counters in Scarborough and Normanton, Wakefield. The acquisition was completed on behalf of American commercial real estate broker Cushman & Wakefield; however, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Scarborough site is now open on Seamer Rd between Howdens and Toolstation, housing 17 staff and six delivery vans within its 3,356 sq ft warehouse. Meanwhile, the Wakefield branch will open in due course on Good Hope Close, located off Pontefract Rd near Junction 31 of the M62 motorway.

“We are delighted to have been able to secure both these sites for ECP, allowing them to expand their presence and better service their ever- growing customer base”, notes Henry King of the Logistics & Industrial team at Cushman & Wakefield. “These new locations are the first of an ambitious 2018 expansion plan
and signify a purposeful and positive start to the year.”

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OSRAM AND CONTINENTAL SIGN TECH JV DEAL

OSRAM AND CONTINENTAL SIGN TECH JV DEAL

German parts giants Continental and Osram have signed a joint venture based on sharing technology and expertise in automotive lighting and electronics.

The deal, in which both companies have an equal share, is set to come into effect in the second half of 2018 following approvals.

Osram Coninental GmbH as the JV will be known, will have Dirk Linzmeier from Osram as CEO and Harald Renner from Continental as CFO.

“We want to actively drive forward technological change in the lighting market within the automotive industry and develop even more innovative and intelligent lighting solutions. The joint venture will help us to establish the conditions for this since it combines our expertise in software and electronics with Osram’s automotive lighting expertise. As such, we will be able to offer our customers an unrivaled portfolio in the lighting market,” said Andreas Wolf, head of Continental’s Body & Security business unit.

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REACHING MORE CUSTOMERS

REACHING MORE CUSTOMERS

Divisional Director Steve Gray discusses the next steps for the Parts Alliance’s new SCMF branch in Croydon.

A full range is now stocked

Last month, the Parts Alliance opened two branches: namely an SAS Autoparts store in Newcastle and SCMF in Croydon. Well, that got us thinking that we have never actually been to a branch of the factor properly known as Southern Counties Motor Factors, so we jumped on the bus to South London to see if it is similar to other branches of the Parts Alliance.

On arrival, everything seems to be running efficiently as the firm’s delivery drivers set off on their early morning runs to nearby workshops and motor factors. Inside, the warehouse follows an accessory shop format with a trade counter situated at the back with well- known car care, tool and retail brands stacked against the centre walls. A sales office is also featured next door, where staff could be heard rattling phones and dealing with customer calls on our arrival.

MANAGEMENT
SCMF Divisional Director Steve Gray and Andy Rogers, SCMF’s South West Regional Business Director, accompanied us along with Branch Manager William Barrett who joins the team from his previous management post at Andrew Page in Croydon. Both Barrett and Rogers have extensive years of experience between them having worked in a range of senior roles within the supply-chain industry.

After getting acquainted, it was time to check out the warehouse. The design and structure is bright and modern, which was hard to envisage for Rodgers at the beginning, as he explained: “This building was just ‘bricks and mortar’ when it was acquired, however, we completely gutted the premises and installed a new roof, windows and reconfigured the entire layout”. Gray expands: “It went like clockwork”, he said. “It was a turnkey operation led by our project management team.”

For logistical purposes, bulk items such as Comma oil barrels have been allocated to aisles near the depot entrance in order to shift these wares to and from the site without hassle. Gray added a general point regarding deliveries: “We receive up to four deliveries of stock throughout the day from our local distribution hub in Sidcup. The main focus for us is on fast moving parts, and we have good traction on those”.

Racking was installed in double-quick time

Meanwhile, PA brand DriveTec brake discs occupied the central aisles in the new black, red and white packaging, launched in Q4 last year. In addition, the ground f loor contained filtration products from the likes of Mann Filter, plus a comprehensive clutch portfolio from major players including Sachs and LuK, stretched across the shop floor.

The upstairs mezzanine consisted of exhaust products, which were hanging up in a tidy formation, while more DriveTec branded wares could be found in the form of wiper blades. Other PA core product lines included Monroe shock absorbers and Shaftec steering and suspension parts awaiting distribution. “We opened the warehouse with 16,000 SKUs and we’ve got 50 per cent mezzanine so it’s easy to extend” notes Gray. He adds that the facility has been built in a ‘modular way with an extension pre-planned in mind’, that will be constructed along the top floor without fear of disrupting day-to-day operations.

NEXT PHASE
The Croydon site currently employs 12 staff, but the firm is now on a recruitment drive to fill more positions within its sales and warehousing departments, following expansion. Another objective for the team is to gradually increase its f leet of vans and motorcycles in particular, to bypass traffic disruptions around the area. Gray expands: “We opened SCMF Croydon with six vans, but we’re increasing this and our bike fleet because the traffic is quite bad here. As with our current fleet, we will continue to deliver within a three to four mile radius”. Motorbikes are a popular way of getting parts delivered along the Capital’s notoriously congested roadmap.

As with other Parts Alliance brands, there is a plan in place to open more SCMF branches.

Gray mentions they will be announced in good time once suitable building sites have been sourced. We will certainly drop by some of these locations as and when they’re confirmed, but for now, it’s business as normal for the team at SCMF.

Posted in Accessories, Batteries, Braking, Car Care, Clutches, Exhausts, Factor & Supplier News, Filters, Garage News, News, Out and About with CAT, Retailer News, Shock Absorbers, Spark Plugs, Steering & Suspension, Tools, WipersComments (1)

THE GDPR LOWDOWN

THE GDPR LOWDOWN

In part two of our GDPR guide, Hayley Pells explains how practical steps will help you be ready.

It hasn’t been a good month for the public’s perception of how companies use their data. You may have noticed that during the coverage of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica on TV that Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner, would pop up to reassure the public that steps were being taken to regulate how their data was used and stored by companies, which was of course a reference to GDPR. If there was any doubt about how seriously the country is going to take the new legislation, this will be a wake up call.

Last month, we explored the background of GDPR and how it is going to affect your business, this month, we are going to explore a step-by-step guide to show you how you can become legally compliant yourself. If you are unsure of the process there is still time to get some professional help. There are independent consultants all over the country and there are larger organisations who are able to roll out a fast to access service. The average garage owner can do this in-house for themselves, but if you are busy, it could be a more cost effective solution to outsource.

STEP 1
Awareness

Following on from last month’s article, you need to make sure all of your team know about the legislation. In my case, trying to explain it to my father who I work with (and is in his late sixties) is a hoot, but we got there. The key area to get across is the impact this compliance will have on the business and acknowledging the time and cost it will require to implement. Do you have a risk register? It could be useful to have one. Compliance can be difficult if the preparations are left to last minute, especially if you then plan to outsource.

STEP 2 – Current situation

What personal data do you hold about your clients and staff ? Do you really need it? This is a good opportunity to “clean house.” Dispose of the unrequired information responsibly, ensuring that the data is inaccessible at the point of disposal.
What you should be left with is the information that you need. What do you do with it? This is how compliance with the accountability principles of GDPR are achieved. You need to know what information you hold, where it is held and how it
is held. It must be held securely. When sharing data, this needs to be done responsibly. For example, does someone else process your payroll? Now is the time to check that the information you share is being done so in a responsible manner and that your service provider is up to speed with their obligations.

Having assessed your current situation it is a good idea to record it and then outline your strategy for improvement. This is a very similar process to how you would complete a risk assessment.

STEP 3 – Communicating
privacy information
Do you have a privacy notice? Currently, when you collect personal data you need to give people the following information;
– Who you are
– How do you intend to use their information

That information you have probably done without thinking, to continue with the payroll simili “I’m Fred Bloggs, I need your NI number to process your pay.” With the GDPR, this is expanded upon, now there are a couple of extra things you need to tell people;

– Your lawful basis for processing the data
– Data retention periods
– The individual’s right of complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office

So for this I shall use the example of information that I gather for a MOT test. My lawful basis for collecting information about my client is that I have been tasked with performing a MOT test on their vehicle. I keep this data for one year and the ICO’s website can be found at ico.org.uk – they are the Information Commissioner’s Office, the UK’s independent body set up to uphold information rights in the public interest. The GDPR requires that plain language is used, every step should be as clear and concise as possible.

STEP 4 – Individual’s rights

You should check and record your procedures to ensure they cover the following rights of the individual, include how you would erase personal data or provide personal data electronically in a commonly used format;
– The right to be informed
– The right of access
– The right to rectification
– The right to be forgotten
– The right to restrict processing n The right to data portability
– The right to object
– The right not to be subject to automated decision-making including profiling

Now bear with me, this all probably sounds like something completely new, but before spanners are thrown up into the year and “this modern euro nonsense is just taking over everything, I am but a simple mechanic” is hailed (or was that just my father?). Let us examine what this means practically. A lot of these rights are just basic common sense, you are probably employing them right now – the key areas that are significantly different are mainly within the right of portability, it only applies;

– To personal data an individual has provided to a controller
– Where processing is based on the individual’s consent or for the performance of a contract
– When processing is carried out by automated means With the Data Protection Act, you could, if you so wished, charge a fee for the provision of data to the individual, under the GDPR you cannot and the information provided by the ICO insist that it be provided in a structured commonly used and machine readable form.

STEP 5 – Access Requests
Step four outlined the right the individual has, step five now examines how those rights are handled. It is good practice to have this recorded and share it with everyone in your organisation.
– No charge for information requests
– Information to be given within a month (under the Data Protection Act, this was 40 days)
– You can refuse or charge for requests that are manifestly unfounded or excessive
– If you do refuse a request, you are legally obliged to tell the individual why and that they have the right to complain to the supervisory authority and to a judicial remedy. You must do without undue delay and at the latest, one month.

If you have a large organisation or you handle large numbers of information requests this may be a good time to assess the implications of dealing with requests quickly. It may be worth considering the desirability of systems that allow individuals to access their own information online.

STEP 6 – Lawful basis for processing personal data
As individuals now have a stronger right than under previous legislation to access their personal data in order to achieve compliance with the GDPR, you should document and share your lawful basis for the collection and processing of this data. This is especially important now individuals have the right to deletion of their personal data.

STEP 7 – Consent
Consent cannot be inferred by silence and must not be an “opt out” (no pre-ticked boxes or assumptions). This is quite a broad area and will be explored further next month with detailed guidance. Consent cannot be thrown in with your general terms and conditions as it must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous. In my opinion, post 25th May 2018, this is going to be the next big goldmine for all those companies that are currently benefiting from the PPI refunds, it will be an easy area to identify non- compliance if the correct procedures are not in place.

STEP 8 – Children
Before shoulders are shrugged that you don’t deal with children, first understand what is meant by the term “child”, although the consent given by children within this context tends to be more concerned with young children and internet related services such as social networking, it would be a good idea to consider how you handle apprentice’s (or any other employee or client who are under 18) information. Currently the GDPR sets the age at 16, this may be lowered to 13, being mindful of how this age limit may change and implementing into your policy documents for the younger people that you may deal with will be the best method to achieve compliance.

If your organisation does deal with children, you must remember that consent must come from someone with “parental responsibility” and has to be verifiable. Your privacy notice must be written in language that children can understand.

STEP 9 – Data Breaches
What to do if it all goes wrong? The legislation does consider that like locking the door to your home doesn’t stop thieves getting in, you may be subject to a data breach that, in under normal working circumstances, would not happen.

If you have a breach, determining the nature of the breach will direct your next course of action. You only need to notify the ICO if the breach is likely to risk the rights and freedoms of the individual, for example, if it could result in discrimination, damage to reputation, financial loss, loss of confidentiality or any other significant economic or social disadvantage. If this breach is likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals, you will also have to notify them directly.

In order to achieve compliance with the GDPR you must have procedures in place that detect, report and investigate personal data breaches. Having a good clear out at step two will reduce the risk in this area.

STEP 10 – Data Protection by Design and Data Protection Impact Assessments
Remember when you had to uncheck a prefilled box to opt out of things online? Now you have to check it yourself, this is what that is about. The chances are, if you collect data in this way, this is something that you are already aware of and I am personally at a loss as to why you would have a need to process information in this way within the automotive aftermarket, but I am sure there is someone out there who could enlighten me!

STEP 11- Data Protection Officers If it is everyones’ job, nobody does it. Identifying a person responsible for data protection compliance is now a formal obligation in certain circumstances. You probably won’t be one of them, but it is still good practice to formally appoint someone to oversee your compliance, that person should take proper responsibility for your data protection compliance and has the knowledge, support and authority to carry out their role effectively.

STEP 12 – International
If you are lucky enough to deal internationally with your organisation you should determine your lead data protection supervisory authority and document this. The lead authority will be where your central administration is located but only relevant where you carry out cross-border processing. (This step doesn’t apply to my garage. Currently).

Hopefully, this article will be helpful in becoming compliant for yourself. The advantage in doing this yourself will enable your organisation to be familiar with the new legal responsibilities organisations have with respect to personal data. The next article will thoroughly examine the subject of consent and how it is applied in this context.

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THE CHANGING FACE OF RETAIL

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.

Posted in CAT Features, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Retailer NewsComments (0)

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