Ross Sissons invites CAT on a tour around ABM Motor Factors in Plumstead
You’ll be familiar with the old trope ‘the only constant is change’. While this well-worn expression could be used for much of the aftermarket, it can be particularly well applied to ABM Factors in Plumstead, which has dealt with the many changes in our industry over its 45-year history.
The business was established by Allen Burton in 1971 who brought in sons Nigel and Lloyd to eventually take over from him. After Burton’s passing, the brothers now head the operation.
On our visit, Branch Manager Ross Sissons was behind the counter to welcome us and provide an insight into the business. “We currently have three depots at the moment. ABM is our main one and we also have two depots in Catford and Dartford that are set up like branches”, he explained. “We also had another shop we originally started up the road called ‘Plumstead Motor Spares’ but we closed it down and migrated up here”. We were curious to find out what the abbreviation ‘ABM’ stands for. “Allen Burton Mick”, Sissons replied, adding that Mick is the owner of Stockwell Motor Accessories, a firm that the original company once had a joint venture with, but the initials had become well known after the JV ended, so the ABM name stuck.
Sissons, who joined from Partco some 12 years prior, said: “Our stock availability is second to none. We pride ourselves on having a better spec than other competitors and the bigger players that are more driven on sales” he said, adding that this branch doesn’t make huge amounts of outgoing sales calls. “We don’t feel we need to call our customers all the time. They’ll come to us because they need help and they know we will assist them the best we can”.
Unsurprisingly, product availability has been key. This was evident on our tour around the factor’s labyrinth stockroom space, with brands including Mahle filters to Apec braking callipers and Key Parts clutch kits. “Our biggest pride here is our stock availability. Instead of keeping the top 35 products of one group category, we will hold the top 200. That’s how we run our business”, said Sissons.
Offering customers both a premium and budget alternative option has helped cater to businesses of all shapes and sizes, allowing the factor to compete on both levels. Sissons elaborates: “What we tend to do with the main product groups is keep them in two separate bands, so we’ll keep a brand like First Line as proprietary and Key Parts as tier two, so we have something else to sell”. He continued: “We have most part numbers for both types so we have an offering for all customers”.
As we continued our tour, Sissons explained that all stock and orders are recorded on MAM Autopart as each product group is stacked and lined up in separate rooms across the main f loors of the warehouse. The factor was also home to a workshop space in the basement that specialised in A labyrinth of exhaust parts manufacturing brake pipes for a range of classic vehicles.
As the tour came to a close, Sissons told us that being a GroupAuto member has its perks, providing the factor with seasonal promotions and updates of its latest gear that will generate sales all year round. ABM also has many suppliers that carry out regular stock cleanses.
Sissons is fully aware of more hybrid technology to come, and is preparing the ABM team by enrolling staff onto training courses. He concluded: “We do try to promote training from within and I have put team members on courses. We have done courses with Delphi including a Vehicle Electronics programme, so we can diagnose and resolve customer queries over the phone first time around”.
When asked if opening up more factors was on the cards, Sissons said the firm’s main strategy is bulking out sales and stock availability with its current stores. We look forward to seeing what change the future holds for the company.