After the winter months of grit and grime on the road, many people use the warmer weather and longer days of spring to give their cars a spring clean inside and out. "Car care sales are very seasonal," confirms Richard Garrie, area manager for Adam Purves (Galashiels). "Over the winter the roads are dirtier and people want lots of screen wash but when spring comes we see a massive uplift in valet sales things such as polish and wax."
Graham Tissiman, sales and marketing manager at Convenience Distribution Group (CDG), says the first thing that people look at is the paintwork of their car.
"There is nothing better than a clean shiny car. To achieve this we recommend Turtle Wax Original Hard Shell Shine and Turtle Wax Zip Wax. Consumers respond well to brands they recognise and Turtle Wax Original and Zip Wax have been around for decades and still offer excellent performance. They have been the top-selling polish and shampoo for years."
Tissiman says that as well as polish and shampoo, retailers shouldn’t forget to stock complementary products such as sponges and dusters. "One of the new products that we have launched this year is the Kent Wash Mitt. The soft microfibre material attracts and lifts dust and dirt while protecting surfaces, plus it is an opportunity to upgrade on the humble sponge."
Tyres and wheels need attention too. "As the closest part of the car to the road they attract dirt, road grime and brake dust. To remedy this we recommend Simoniz Alloy Wheel Cleaner, which easily removes dirt to help achieve clean alloys quickly. For the tyres stock Armor All Tire Foam. The foam contains cleaning agents that stick to the tyre wall and as it breaks down, the dirt and cleaning agents are carried away and the protection and beautification ingredients can penetrate the rubber."
For inside the car, Tissiman recommends Armor All Cockpit Shine, which cleans and shines the dashboard and comes in three fragrances: new car, vanilla and lemon fresh.
Merchandising is key
Ziheed Mohammed is manager of Woodman Forecourts in Leeds, and was the winner of the Best Car Care category at Forecourt Trader of the Year 2018. He says merchandising is key to sales success in the category. "All our car care products are merchandised together near the most visible part of the store, so customers are easily able to find them. We want to make shopping as easy as possible for them. Take cleaning, for example, as well as shampoo and polish we have products for the dashboard and for the tyres. Customers might come in for one type of cleaning product and see the others and buy an extra item."
Ziheed adds that it’s important to constantly engage with customers to help them choose the right products. "If people ask for something that we don’t have I will follow it up and get it in for them," he says.
He says it’s important to be competitive and he stocks a range of products across different price points: "We have cheaper lines such as Simoniz and T-Cut; then we have higher-end brands like Auto Gleam."
With car care items sometimes a distress purchase the oil light’s come on so the motorist needs oil, for example some forecourts might be tempted to premium-price items. But Richard agrees with Ziheed that you need to be competitive.
"We don’t over-price because that will just encourage peopleto go to the supermarket (an Asda opened in Galashiels just last year).
"We run offers and these are targeted to the different seasons. Over Christmas we ran an offer on our car wash giving people who used the car wash a Magic Tree air freshener. Margins on car wash are exceptionally good so it was no problem giving away the air fresheners and as a result of the offer, car wash sales went up by 30%."
The store had a refit five years ago and Richard looked at reducing the car care range but he says he can count on the fingers of one hand how many products were removed because car care is so important to the shop.
The car care section spans 2m (across eight shelves) and it is positioned near the Costa Coffee machine. Sales are good; the only decline has been in bulb sales as newer cars have been designed so drivers need to take the car back to the dealer to get the bulbs changed. Richard says the decline has not hurt them but it has been noticeable.
He says people come in for car care knowing exactly what they want but all staff are trained to advise them if needed. "All our staff have been on the Shell forecourt assistant course up in Edinburgh so can advise on wipers, lubes and anti freeze. We’ll also check oil for people as our type of store is all about personal service."
Adam Purves (Galashiels) stocks Shell-branded oil and Richard says customers love the brand. "All the staff have the Shell app on their phones, customers give them their reg, they tap it in and the oil required will appear.
"We also have pull-down charts on the fixture where you look up the model and year but the app is much easier."
Tissiman says it is important that retailers stock the right oil to reflect the needs of the modern motorist. "Research carried out on behalf of Castrol UK has indicated that there has been an increased movement towards thinner viscosities with 5w30 now accounting for 56.2% of the UK Car Parc in 2017 compared to 35.6% in 2008 and thus displays should reflect this need."
Alastair Frazer of Lochbroom Filling Station in Ullapool, says his car care section is vital thanks to all the drivers taking The North Coast 500 route. Indeed so impressive are the roads and the scenery that he’s had stars from Top Gear (Rory Reid) and The Grand Tour (Clarkson himself) drop in.
"We get loads of motorbikes in sometimes 20 at a time on the forecourt plus we get Lamborghinis and McLarens as we’re the only forecourt in North West Scotland that sells super unleaded."
Wiper blades, coolants, brake fluids and chain lubes are among his best sellers.
Finally, Richard in Galashiels says sales of AdBlue have ’gone crazy’. The site has a builders merchants next door and they need AdBlue for their vehicles but it is also selling to car drivers too, for the newer diesel engines.
CDG offers AdBlue in five-litre and 10-litre cans.
Tissiman says the 10-litre size is the biggest seller as this is aimed at commercial vehicles, but the five litre is catching up as more cars have the need for Adblue. Also available is the AdBlue 3.5ltr pouch which Tissiman says has an advantage over the cans in that it is much easier to dispose of once it’s empty as it collapses flat.
With the average age of cars on our roads getting older, leading car care supplier Halfords sees this as good news as the company predominantly supports cars that are over three years old. And surely therefore it’s got to be good news for forecourts too?
Get to know your oils
Carlube offers a wide range of ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers Association) specification oils, all of which have been updated to meet the latest ACEA 2016 specifications.
The main change to the ACEA sequences sees the implementation of the C5 category, which sees oils formulated to a mid-SAPS level, with after-treatment system compatibility across 0W-20 and 5W-20 viscosities. It is forecast that the C5 category will become the baseline level for the next generation of OEM specification oils, as manufacturers look to further reduce carbon emissions. At the same time, we will also see the removal of the A1/B1 category.
The new C5 specification now covers the low-HTHS viscosities previously covered by A1/B1 making the A1/B1 specification redundant. The new sequences have also been adapted to cover changes in engine hardware and the introduction of new seal materials, as well as taking into account the increased presence and use of biofuels. More up to date and more relevant bench tests have also been introduced.
Carlube’s flagship Triple R range already includes four ACEA C5 specification oils 5W-20 C5-F, 0W-20 C5-V, 0W-20 C5-VA and 0W-20 C5-J. More C5 specification oils are to be introduced into the Carlube range alongside the updated sequence to coincide with the demands of the vehicle manufacturer and the consumer. The low viscosity of these oils provides emission reduction and fuel economy gains, as well as offering protection to engines and exhausts.
Time to get fresh
While many car care products are seasonal, Graham Tissiman, sales and marketing manager at Convenience Distribution Group (CDG), says air fresheners sell well for all 12 months of the year.
They are typically bought on impulse so it’s important to have brands that stand out. "CDG supports Little Tree Air Fresheners, which are the number- one-selling air freshener in the UK. In addition, new fragrances are important and Neutradol has introduced a new fresh pink fragrance."
One of the most eye-catching air freshener brands out there has got to be Jelly Belly with its brightly coloured, bean-shaped products. Scents include Very Cherry, Tutti-Frutti, Juicy Pear and Lemon Drop. Cost price to the retailer is £1.69 from CDG and suggested retail price is £3.99 delivering a profit on return of 49%.
Ziheed Mohammed of Woodman Forecourts in Leeds knows the importance of air fresheners as he stocks some 50 different varieties.
"A lot of them sell on impulse but we have regular customers who come in and buy them too. They know they will find something different here we even stock some from the US."
Fifo has just launched a new range of oil-based air fresheners under the MyMe Fresh brand.
The little bottles are described as odour eliminators and kill odours instantly. Fragrances include My New Car, My Tropical and My Cherry.
Card freshener specialist Pongo is exhibiting at this month’s Forecourt Show at the NEC. The company offers a wide variety of fragrances and designs and can produce bespoke products for promotional use.