PETER SCHOFIELD: END OF THE LINE FOR TRADITIONAL RETAIL?

This archive feature is is from CAT May 2015 and was written shortly after the demise of Maccess 

The theme in CAT so far this year has been of turbulence in the

Peter Schofield

aftermarket. Hardly a week has gone by without news of a takeover, rebranding or major structural change at some long-established company.

None more so perhaps, than Tetrosyl. The firm had only just announced its range of summer products and TV advertising programme when the news came in that Maccess, Godfrey Autoparts and Pacific Retail (the official name for MotorWorld) had gone into administration, with 350 jobs lost just before payday. This, understandably, filled CATs in-tray with messages from readers who for the most part felt had been let down by the management and the way in which it handled the situation.

Tetrosyl boss Peter Schofield is keen to address the question. “We have to say that in any administration situation there will be casualties he says. “I think the difference on this occasion, on a positive note, Tetrosyl has re-employed over 100 people. We have 50 new staff in our Super Hub in Trafford Park and 35 more in our bulk warehouse in Greengate and a further 16 people in our call centre for TetExpress as we modernise our business.”

Existing problems

The three parts of the business in administration each had their own problems. Godfrey Autoparts was languishing in administration when Tetrosyl bought it out in 2011. “We bought it as part of a deal because they owed us a fair amount of money says Schofield. “We tried to sell it on and do other things – but in the end it took up more of our time than it was worth”. There is no doubt that the chain had a troubled past. When it went bust in 2011 it owed creditors a reported £250m pounds, including a sizeable chunk to HMRC, which at the time was described by the administrator as a ‘millstone of debt’ in an unusually coloured metaphor.

The Pacific Retail group, which included Godfrey, Motor World and the Maccess chain of cash and carry stores were a wholly owned subsidiary of Tetrosyl, but as they were not directly part of the main company, Schofield was able to immediately buy back 32 of the larger Motor World stores. This is common practice in business, although referring to our in-tray once again, not a move that has made Tetrosyl especially popular.

For his part, Schofield feels he picked the Godfrey’s Autoparts chain up at a time when smaller physical retail outlets were well and truly out of fashion. “There is already a sat nav and complex audio equipment on most modern cars – everything you could possibly want” he notes, adding that many of the stores in administration were just too small, dark and old-fashioned to be appealing to the modern consumer.

End of the Cash and Carry

Similarly, the Maccess cash and carry chain suffered from the decline of retail stores. Started in the 1980s by Heyward Williams it changed hands a number of times in the 21st century. “The changes in the automotive aftermarket have gathered momentum over the last couple of years” says Schofield. “There have been closures of hundreds of retail automotive outlets and as mentioned cars are being equipped with many of the aftermarket accessories that used to be sold by the likes of Maccess. For the independent accessory shop, there’s the internet with online market stalls like eBay and Amazon. Maccess was the last cash and carry with outlets in the country – it just basically ran out of time and customers.”

Schofield adds that for customers that do still have a viable business, only a minority of them were prepared to close up in order to go and buy a bulk load of stock from the cash and carry when they could just as easily order online. “If you consider how people shopped in the old way, you’d have to leave your own business, travel to a warehouse (which could be an hour away), pick the product up and put it on a trolley, pay cash and drive back to your business… It’s all old hat basically says Schofield. “Today we’ve got different forms of distribution, we deliver from one superhub to offer next day service for the trade. We launched it a few weeks ago and it is known as TetExpress”.

With the loss of Maccess and swathes of accessory shops, one could be forgiven for assuming that Tetrosyl’s plans for the Quinton Hazell brand have also taken a back seat. Nothing could be further from the truth, assures Schofield, “Quinton Hazell is a worldwide parts brand. Believe it or not, it was distributed in 140 countries at one time” he reminds us, adding that trade had been rekindled so far with 60 of these countries and that in this country factors can order directly through TetExpress. Raising a brand with no inventory up to 92,000 part numbers was never going to be easy, but Schofield says that he has a ‘very good team’ and that many of the people in his organisation had an advantage as they already had a background in parts.

Car Care

If smaller retail outlets are, as Schofield suggests, in terminal decline, we are curious to know if he believes that the market for car care products that have always been the core of Tetrosyl’s business is also set to fall away. “No I don’t, because there’s a certain love people have of cleaning cars he firmly states. “We spend a lot of money on developing new ideas – quicker ways of cleaning your vehicle and of course we put a lot of time into TV exposure. I see car care as a growing market for the right products. The problem is that most manufacturers are living in the past, they don’t spend any money on their brands and they never have any new ideas he says, adding that his company spends around £2m on its product range each year.

One of these new generation of products is Demon Shine, a type of self-foaming car shampoo. This is a brand that Schofield is particularly proud of. “It was started from scratch – it was invented here he says. “It was patented by us and we put it on television over about four years and it has picked the imagination of the time conscious consumer who just wants something that if quick, easy and works and is a bit of fun as well.”

The fact that the market for car cleaning products remains reasonably boyant will come as cold comfort to those that have lost their jobs, but if there is one thing that Schofield and our readers can agree on, it is that the face of car accessory retail is not the same as it was – and with the demise of Maccess and the rest, it may have changed forever.

Published by GregWhitaker

Editor of CAT Magazine and an experienced motoring journalist

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