“Being OCD is never a dirty word,” quips Martyn Escritt. He has a point as his office at the Witham branch of Essex Motor Factors is immaculate. The phone rings and while he takes a call I notice that even the receiver is gleaming and that my tea mug has a dainty coaster waiting for it. We’ve seen plenty of motor trade premises in our time and while most are presentable enough, few of them actually sparkle. However, Escrit is a man who clearly believes that everything has a place and that there is a place for everything.
This permeates through to the main store. Row after row of neatly arranged parts and accessories wait for their turn to be picked. EMF is a part of the UAN network and that affords it the ability to stock a wide range of brands.
Keeping a wide stock is critical to running a factor in the modern age, according to Escritt. “You can’t take your eye off the ball,” he explained. “You need to continuously look at what you have got and at what price. These days you can’t keep one brand of wheel cylinders and one brand of wheel bearings – you need to offer a choice of quality and price points”. He uses a number of techniques to predict what parts are going to be ‘the next big thing’ in the aftermarket. “I often talk to franchised dealers about up-and-coming problems. This way, if we know about parts that are being used by them now, it is only a matter of time before we get the call too.”
This hasn’t always been the case. When Escritt joined the company in 1991, the firm was a member of Motaquip, and at the time was limited in terms of the number of brands it could stock. This was less of an issue back then, and in fact made things simpler as holding fewer brands meant a greater number of references could be carried at one branch. Today, as there are far more brands and vastly more references, the emphasis is on efficiency. “Having one branch concentrating on bulk and supplying five times a day on our interbranch van allows for less stock being held at other sites,” he said, explaining that the cost saving allowed for more depth of range on other products. “One site specialising on a less popular product allows for all branches to have daily access to that too without the need to dual stock. Matt (Little, the Operations Manager) and I work very closely to ensure that nothing gets overlooked and where necessary one of us will have it somewhere.”
Interestingly, Escritt has found that the number of OE parts are no more expensive, or cheaper than the aftermarket equivalent. This has turned out to be particularly so in the field of engine management. “The temptation is to say: ‘we can’t have Delphi or Pierburg because OE brands are going to be very expensive’ but when you actually look at it, you realise that the manufacturer has got the price right,” he explained. “These days we can stock a lot of the OE brands, and it will still be the cheapest, but eight or ten years ago it never was.”
Escritt has also found that local buying patterns have changed. In the 1990s, it would be common for even the smallest local garage to order 20 spark plugs at a time, as there were fewer references and they tended to get changed at every service. Now, this has changed, which according to Escritt is because there is a perception in some garages that all cars have platinum plugs and therefore they don’t need changing… and this holds true, even if the vehicle has regular plugs. “So garages will price a service up and say they’ll do it for £100 or whatever, but when they call up for a service kit, and you ask how many miles it has done and you’ll suggest that it will need new plugs which may be £8 or £10 each, they’ll say ‘ouch’ and not change them. It’s only when you point out that the plugs are not platinum that they will give their customers the option of changing them,” says Escritt.