Fraser's Budgens of Marlborough took the top prize for Best Car Care and Lubricants outlet (sponsored by Convenience Distribution Group CDG) at last year's Forecourt Trader of the Year awards and it's easy to see why.
At this time of year, car care is more about de-icer and screen wash than shampoo and a chamois. Graham Tissiman, sales and marketing manager at the Convenience Distribution Group, advises retailers to make sure they're adequately stocked up with winter products. "Consumers are usually caught unawares by the weather," he says. "They're busy and only realise they need de-icer when they wake up to a frost, so stopping and getting some at the local forecourt is what many will do. And the grit on the road will leave residue on the windscreen so screen wash is important too. If a driver's screen wash has run out they need it there and then. Bigger forecourts often have a pallet display but all sizes of forecourts should stock it. It's a good cash sale with 5ltr selling at £4.99."
Where else do you go apart from Halfords, if you want something for your car in a hurry, says Rakesh Sharma, one of the managing directors of the Sharma Falcon Group, when asked why he still carries car care items across his 14 sites. While many forecourt retailers have been tempted to turn their backs on car care displays in favour of more chillers, Rakesh is still keen on the category. Indeed he allocates anything between 2m and 5m of display space to car care in each of his forecourt stores. These each have six shelves and a peg board backing for even more products.
The severe weather this winter has been a boon for the car care industry. The Highways Agency, with its Make Time for Winter campaign, gave drivers a checklist of items they should have in their cars before making any journeys. The list comprised: ice scraper and de-icer; warm clothes and blankets; torch and spare batteries or a wind-up torch; boots; First Aid kit; jump leads; shovel; road atlas; and sunglasses (because the glare off snow can be dazzling). Most of these items, barring the boots, warm clothes/blankets and sunglasses, could probably be found in most forecourt stores.
Fuel prices may be at record levels and motor insurance sky high but, according to the car care companies, motorists are still willing to spend money looking after their vehicles.