CAT garage lives: Blue Peter Garage, Basingstoke

Blue Peter Garage, Basingstoke
Blue Peter Garage, Basingstoke

Blue Peter Garage in Basingstoke has been through a lot of change in recent years. Current owner Cliff Poulter has spent upwards of £60k renovating and restoring the business, and working to gain the trust of the local motoring population. If the queue of cars in his car park is anything to go by, he’s got it.

Poulter explained how he got into the business: “We were looking for a garage to buy in Basingstoke, having just sold our courier business. As a former mechanic myself I wanted to get back into the motor trade because I have a lot of passion for it. I knew the guy who owned this garage, and he told me he was looking to retire. So we bought this business.

“We totally rewired the building and had to bring in new lighting and customer facilities.“

Poulter says one of his biggest renovations has been to give the garage a friendlier atmosphere: “It’s the little things, like making sure your waiting area is warm in the winter, and making sure it’s a pleasant place to be. All those things add up to the customer thinking they’ll use your workshop. If they find somewhere they like they will come back. It takes so much time, effort and expense to get a new customer, and it takes less than five minutes to loose them. It’s as simple as that.

“If a customer can see inside the workshop and they see it’s covered in tools and grease they might not want to come inside.”

Garage owner Cliff Poulter
Garage owner Cliff Poulter

With the pre-Christmas cold snap not bringing in enough of the usual winter repair work, Poulter is relying on his staple business of MOT tests. He says workshops which offer reduced-rate MOT tests are devaluing the trade: “I read an article in the latest MOT magazine where someone was moaning that we have to pay for the paper and ink to print MOT certificates. I agree those are more expenditures, but then don’t forget that if you’re offering ridiculous prices for MOT’s then of course it’s going to be an extra cost.

“I think people are now getting wise to the fact that the cheaper an MOT is, the higher the chance of it failing.”

Poulter cites a case and point of a customer who visited a garage offering cheap MOT tests. His vehicle failed because the headlights were out of alignment, and the customer was charged £12.99 per light to put it right. Blue Peter Garage charges £44 for an MOT test – and consequently doesn’t charge customers to put small faults right.

Poulter is an active member of the Bosch Autocrew network, the supplied branding on the outside of his workshop is a welcome sight for customers: “We were approached by Autocrew through our relationship with Euro Car Parts. I looked at the proposal and there seemed to be a lot of advantages. The Bosch technical backup and the diagnostic equipment is brilliant.

We also get preferential rates with ECP, which considering they have a big branch just down the road is another advantage. I can usually have a part here within ten or fifteen minutes.”

The garage has an impressive interior
The garage has an impressive interior

Poulter laments at some of the aspects of the modern motor trade. He thinks the ‘neighbourhood mechanic’ has all but disappeared: “These days there aren’t any more neighbourhood mechanics. When you book your car in these days you talk to a receptionist rather than a technician, and that’s a shame. We have people popping in all the time and we don’t charge for having a look. We always give customers a chance to shop around if they want to.”

“There are too many garages in the UK and there are certainly too many garages in Basingstoke. On this one industrial estate for example there are three other garages. There are four MOT testing stations on this one site. We’re probably the dearest out of all of them.”

There’s something to be said for Blue Peter Garage’s continuing success then – because despite Poulter admitting being one of the dearest workshops in the area, it’s also one of the busiest.

Blue Peter Garage – vital stats

ESTABLISHED          1992

LOCATION                Basingstoke

BAYS                          5

STAFF                        6

TEL                            01256 810707


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Published by Darrenmoss

CAT magazine's in-house reporter and self-confessed petrol head

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