Tag Archive | "Car accessories"

RISING AGAIN AFTER THE FLOOD

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RISING AGAIN AFTER THE FLOOD


Keeping afloat after disaster strikes takes the most Streetwize of operators

New, efficient warehouse for Streetwize

Regular readers will have seen Murray Silverman and his team in the magazine many times through the years – first through his activities as the Ace Supply buyer’s agent and more recently through accessory brand Streetwize.

However, in the last days of 2014 the business nearly went under – quite literally as the warehouse and offices suffered a devastating flood.

“It happened on Boxing Day, and when I got back from holiday I saw the flood” recalled Silverman with typical understatement. A video clip on his phone reveals that a river had burst its banks, putting the nearby houses and businesses under four feet of fast-flowing and extremely muddy water. This was going to take a while to sort out.

The first problem was to find somewhere to physically do the sorting out. The area, still under water, had been cordoned off by the fire service so Silverman had to come up with another plan. “We had nowhere to go to, but there were some serviced offices over the road a little way, so I ran over and asked what they had”.

The answer was not much, but the manager of the building found a few rooms scattered between f loors, which at least allowed Murray, son and co-director Dale, Co-Director Dave Davis, Julie Bell from the Purchasing team and a number of other sales employees to phone around customers to explain what had happened – a situation complicated by the fact that they were not able to use the Streetwize telephone system.

HEAD UNDER WATER
“Customers were very sympathetic at first, but after a couple of months it started to wear a bit thin” explained Silverman. One of the problems was that after the water receded Environmental Health looked at the condition of the building and decided that it was something more toxic than mud that caked every surface and large swathes could not be used. The result was that pretty much all of the stock was written off as well as a whole load of computer systems and physical paperwork destroyed.

One of the problems when your business is imports is not loosing the stock – painful as it might be, it is insured – but replacing it will take at least twelve weeks and in the modern age of retail, that just isn’t acceptable. “It was a total battle, plus we had no premises,” recalls Silverman. “But I couldn’t just turn on the tap”.

In the short term, the management had to beg, borrow and call in favours to get space to hold the small amounts of stock they could get their hands on. Not wanting to risk a repeat of the incident, the hunt was on for a new and permanent home – although that was also problematic as staff wouldn’t want to move too far.

The lack of stock was a massive problem though. “We had stock here, there and everywhere, and we were losing orders left right and centre” recalled Silverman. “Some of the national accounts fined us because we couldn’t fulfil the order and some of them cancelled altogether. You can argue with your insurance all you like, but once you’ve lost an order, you’ve lost it and they let someone else in”.

However, in the modern North-West decent logistics space is at a premium. Fortunately, and at the last minute, Silverman found a warehouse in Manchester and the race was on to get it racked out before a large shipment of stock arrived.

To say that the transition was straightforward would be inaccurate, however the current property offers a number of advantages over the old place – and not just because of the reduced flood risk. First of all, wide loading bays and the brand-new racking meant it was easier and quicker to move goods in and out. Secondly, brighter and roomier offices on site meant the sales and buying teams could get on with their work. Finally, the site had a large upstairs room that leant itself well to being set up as a mock accessory shop.

LOSING ORDERS
The race was on to refill the stock room and the order book – and this led the company in a new direction. For some time, Streetwize had offered a range of camping and leisure products, but now it was in a position to expand on this. “I had a customer that was into mail order that opened a door for me for a national account, who wanted garden products” explained Silverman. These were easily sourced from the firm’s list of factory contacts, as were a number of caravan products. “We went to the shows and added an electric caravan mover to range” he said. “I knew the maker of old, so I asked him about securing the UK rights and it has been big business for us”.

Dale Silverman, Murray Silverman and Dave Davis

Leisure products, now sold under the sub-brand Leisurewize is now the fastest growing area of the company, though this hasn’t been without challenges. In a market that is dominated with the likes of Amazon and eBay, the firm has struggled with ‘substitute sellers’. Simply put, these sellers will use a picture of a Streetwize branded product, but actually send a generic unbranded item that the sellers have imported themselves. The team at Streetwize joined with other (mostly leisure) accessory distributors to have these sellers taken down – but it has been an uphill battle as the way that the nation buys and sells has changed. “I remember the days of Gordon Spice, Regor, G&M and Maccess – there were loads of cash and carry’s” said Silverman wistfully. “They’ve all gone now… The internet has changed the world” adding that the company has never supplied consumers directly and certainly hasn’t sold directly on Amazon.

EXPORT
Another new direction after the flood was to try exporting Streetwize branded products. “It was difficult, because no-one was waiting for Streetwize to turn up” admits Silverman. However, after going to a few trade shows he found buyers that were willing to listen to his message that while it might be easy to buy directly from China, it is much harder to buy consistently or well. For that you need long-established contacts as Streetwize has. “If they buy from us, they get the opportunity to buy good products with a strong brand” he says, adding that he loves sticking another pin in the map when he picks up a new international client.

A surprisingly strong market has been New Zealand and there is even an accessory shop on the tiny island of St Helena that is decked out with the firm’s wares.

On our visit, the peak season for wholesale buying leisure products was nearing an end, and the warehouse was full of water rollers, tow hitch locks, electric caravan movers and many other products that we weren’t familiar with. Dale Silverman and Dave Davis pop by to say hello, in between both of them sorting out complex deals on their permanently busy phones. The mock shop, which also doubles as a boardroom, is a fantastic size, but even this can’t display every product that the team imports.

Silverman started in the aftermarket by buying a job lot of ‘Grand Prix’ brand steering wheels that used an interchangeable boss to fit most cars on the road at the time. Today, the businesses’ fastest moving lines are various hands free accessories and dashcams, as well as the afore mentioned caravan mover. As Silverman says, the world has changed and so have the things people buy as well as the way in which they buy them, but you can be sure that the team from Manchester will be on the phone, constantly looking for the next big opportunity – whatever the weather throws at them.

NEW TO RANGE, ONCE APON A TIME:
Silverman’s thoughts on five great products from the last 30 years:

Fluffy dice

“These are essentially useless, but at one time we couldn’t stock enough of them”

‘Grand Prix’ steering wheels

“We tried to sell them to the likes of Maccess, but they said: ‘No way! You are a thorn in our side!’”

Max Power merchandise

“For a time, anything with Max Power on it would sell – absolutely anything. Funnily enough Fast and the Furious merchandise was a comparative disaster”.

Spitting Image merchandise

“I realised there was a market for this, so we got the licence and straight away sold 50,000 keyrings to Asda”.

Light-up washer jets

“I came back from Taiwan and told everybody about these. Without exception, they thought I was crazy…but I knew there was a market for them!”

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500 ATTEND REGIONAL PARTS ALLIANCE SHOW


A very high turnout was recorded at a regional trade show organised by the Parts Alliance in Exeter.

The event was held in the function rooms of the Exeter Chiefs rugby club and had a variety of suppliers promoting their wares, running competitions and passing on fitting tips and best practice to technicians.

An added attraction was touring car driver Matt Neil who shared anecdotes about his career with the crowd throughout the evening.

Visitors were mostly customers of branches in the South West. Most of these branches are former Unipart Automotive sites, which were simply re-branded as Parts Alliance.

Paul Dineen, Head of Garage Programmes at The Parts Alliance said: “To host a midweek evening event and attract so many people after the working day was a great achievement. It was also half-term so a number of owners brought their families along too”.

“Huge credit goes to all the team who worked tirelessly to organise the evening and of course to the supporting suppliers and attending garage customers who made the effort to come along”.

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, Greg Whitaker's diary, News, UncategorisedComments (0)

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THE LAST UNDERSUPPLIED AREA


Jonathan Davies discusses the launch of the first CMF factor branch in Gwynedd

Stockroom ProductsIn these times where there seems to be a factor branch in every other industrial unit across the land, it comes as a surprise that that there are still parts of the UK that are undersupplied. However, this was the experience of Jonathan Davies, an entrepreneur from the Welsh village of Bontddu, Gwynedd.

With the closure of the local Unipart Automotive branch, the closest parts factor was 30 miles away. Davies decided enough was enough: “Once Unipart went that was it,” he said. “There was only CES but their prices were expensive. All the local garages and everybody was complaining because there was no competition within a 60-mile radius and that’s what made us go for it. As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat them join them”.

The new Clogau Motor Factor’s (CMF) branch comprises five 20ft-shipping containers along with a 25ft office unit, stacked on top of one another. We were intrigued to find out where the inspiration for this eccentric design came from: “We were waiting for a property to become available but we couldn’t find any in the area” said Davies. “My friend Mike Webb from the Car Buying Group said he knew a guy from Bristol who trades out of shipping containers and is doing very well. That’s how we decided on the layout”. Apart from being a factor CMF is also a retail shop and as Clogau Motors, is also a garage with MOT bay.

Davies needed an extra pair of hands and bought in Paul Merrick as Branch Manager. Merrick is one of Clogau Motor’s experienced MOT Testers, carrying 10 years of service at the garage. “Paul was happy just cleaning and valeting cars at Clogau Motors, but I thought he was too clever for this. After some convincing, he has transitioned over to Branch Manager and is doing well – he’s been really nailing it”, responded Davies.

PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Merrick and the rest of the staff were required to complete a four-day training programme, learning the new MAM software. Davies explained Products and servicesthat the system has played an important role in organising the stock within the shipping containers while increasing customer accounts: “It took us a while putting all the stock on the system, but it’s good system I have to praise it. We also have an alliance with the Car Buying Group and a website with them. The Click and Collect service with the CBG has slowly built up our private customer accounts and is growing organically”. The system also caters to the general public who want to purchase spare car parts, Davies elaborated: “A lot of people are coming in and buying bulbs and wipers. People are more and more trying to service their cars themselves to save the garage expenses”.

The branch has got off to a good start with the recent purchase of their second van and the opportunity to increase the fleet to as many as six vans later this year. CMF currently hold 46 trade accounts stocking products from brands including ALCO Filters, Varta Batteries, Juratec brake discs and others.

Since the doors opened for business, the branch has secured a great amount of support from local garages and agents along the coastline: “The business is growing more and more every week”, Davies explained: “We’re getting more people not just trade customers but also more private customers now as well. People are having to travel 30 miles away to Aberystwyth to their local car parts place, so we’re getting more and more of them as well”.

FUTURE PROOF

Stocked-up Shipping Containers Planning ahead, the factor chain discussed their future business goals: “As Paul says to me, we are growing organically. We’re not like the big
chains, but we’re starting slowly. We don’t get deliveries from FPS everyday whereas a lot of other factors do. If the business grows, what we hope to achieve next year is going from little containers to a purpose-built unit for the place”.

The distributor hopes to expand its delivery radius to 30 miles. However, Davies believes this could be an issue because of changes in the vehicle parc: “You’ve got to remember that we’re very rural. We’re in Snowdonia. The closest drive is half an hour to the supermarket, and an hour drive to your closest McDonalds. We’re being very careful building up our stock to suit the vehicles we’ve got in the area”, he concluded.

 

Jonathan Davies And Paul Merrick

VITAL STATS

CLOGAU MOTOR FACTORS

LOCATION:  Bontddu, Gwynedd

MANAGER:  Paul Merrick (Pictured right with Jonathan Davies)

STAFF:  4    VANS:  2

FASTEST MOVING LINES:  Oil filters, car batteries, braking

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