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."
But Tissiman adds that all car care products are money-spinners thanks to typical profit margins of around 40%.
The car care category is very seasonal. "In the winter it’s mostly about aerosol and trigger packs of de-icer as well as screen wash and antifreeze. Then in the summer, there’s more of a focus on valeting and cleaning," explains Tissiman.
But there are the all-year-round sellers too. "Air fresheners sell throughout the year as do emergency lines like bulbs and additives to help cars run smoother and to reduce emissions," says Tissiman.
"When it comes to air fresheners Little Trees still sell well they’re the Kellogg’s corn flakes or Heinz tomato soup of air fresheners, if you like. But Jelly Belly fresheners are going extremely well.
"I think display is really important because of the impulse nature of these purchases. Air fresheners have great pick-up appeal so don’t just put them in the car care bay put them near the till too. Customers go into a forecourt store in a car-oriented frame of mind so air fresheners are great impulse purchases."
Tissiman says there are opportunities to up-sell by siting shampoo next to sponges to help increase the number of products in shoppers’ baskets.
He describes oil as a very solid performer. "There are not many products that give drivers a warning when they need them, but oil is one."
And he believes brands are vital which is why CDG stocks Castrol oil, for example. "Brands such as Castrol, Turtle Wax, Simoniz, Armorall and STP give customers confidence and reassurance so yes, brands are important."
One company that’s making serious inroads into the UK car care market is Ma Fra Ltd, formed last year by Tony Davies. Ma Fra is an almost 50-year old, family-owned car care manufacturer based in Milan. Davies says it is market leader in the Italian car care and car wash chemical marketplace.
"In terms of quality, Ma Fra is the only car care manufacturer in the world to be granted TUV accreditation under ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ASA 18001 and it continues to spend heavily in developing new products and processes that bring added benefits and convenience to their customers and consumers," he says.
Ma Fra provides chemicals for car washes but can also provide retail versions for drivers. "The site operator can therefore have Ma Fra products in the car wash and jet wash bays, and then cross merchandise them in the forecourt shop itself. If the customer is delighted with the finish from Ma Fra on the exterior of the car, they are highly likely to want to further treat the inside of their car with a Ma Fra branded product."
On the Continent Ma Fra is stocked in many of the leading supermarkets, such as Carrefour and Auchan, and also has a strong presence in the Italian Co-Op so it is well established in the retail sector.
Davies says his firm can provide high-quality, free-standing merchandising display stands to promote and display the products. Best sellers include Polish Express, which is based on the new science of nanotechnology, so you use it as you would a car shampoo and it polishes while you wash. It works by cleaning and then sealing the microscopic imperfections in the paintwork, creating a super-smooth paint surface that actually protects a car’s paintwork from bad weather and discourages further dirt and traffic film dirt from sticking.
Essentially, Davies says Polish Express guarantees a treatment comparable to a tinned wax, but without the normal effort required, and in just 10 minutes!
Then there’s Last Touch Express, described as a "super-fast liquid wax that quickly and easily guarantees exceptional, deep and long-lasting shine, even when it rains". It is silicone-free and rich in Carnauba wax.
Shampoo Attivo is a double-action car shampoo in that it is an effective detergent and grease remover.
Using it means that there is no need to scrub, as any smog and dirt embedded in the bodywork and the bumpers melts away instantly.
Splendorlega is a detergent for alloy and aluminium rims. Says Davies: "Anyone who is used to DIY car washing knows that often, after having washed your car, it is necessary to pick up the sponge again to shift the tough residual dirt from the alloy rims. The dust produced from the disc pads is among the most difficult dirt to remove through normal methods and that is why Ma Fra developed Splendorlega."
It’s a detergent with strong de-greasing powers and has been devised to guarantee the maximum results on any model of car or motorbike rim, whether in magnesium alloy, steel, aluminium and also plastic rim covers. Apparently even the oldest, most dried-on dirt dissolves rapidly under its powerful action.
Meanwhile, Fast & Black is the result of a direct request from Italy’s largest tyre producer. Davies says Pirelli needed a new product for the P Zero tyres used by the racing teams involved in the Ferrari Challenge. Specifications from the Pirelli technicians included, in particular, speed of use and an excellent long-lasting polish effect. The product was to be colourless and not to stain the mechanics’ hands once applied. Ma Fra’s response was Fast & Black, a handy and quick anti-static polish that is neither greasy nor tacky. It can resist up to three washes and is durable, protecting and reviving the original colour and preserving the tyre from cracking and atmospheric and chemical agents.
It seems looking after your car certainly can pay off. A recent study of 3,000 car owners by Halfords and paint renovation brand G3 Pro revealed that just one hour spent polishing a car can increase its value by up to £500 and a little extra effort can add up to £1,000.
Halfords paint protection expert David Howells says: "Nine out of 10 car owners that have either sold or traded in a vehicle in the past 12 months told us they had carried out some pre-sale polishing and more than three quarters of them achieved a better price because of this. The biggest increase in value was realised by owners who used a scratch removal product to bring paintwork back to its best with more than half of them increasing the sale price by at least 10% and one in six achieving a 20% increase."
Farécla’s G3 Pro is a range of products that give car owners the ability to achieve professional results at home on minor blemishes such as surface scratches, scuffs and paint fading.
The firm says its Permanent Scratch Remover, Paint Renovator and Colour Restorer, used in conjunction with the specially engineered Applicator Waffle Pads, can effortlessly achieve a glossy, defect-free shine by hand and without the need for a polishing machine.
Last year G3 Pro introduced two new products to its range: the reusable G3 Pro Clay Mitt which allows car owners to deep clean their car, removing dirt and contaminants that a shampoo wash won’t remove; and G3 Pro Colour Restorer which uses a professional grade formula to restore colour and gloss to dull and faded paintwork, as well as removing micro scratches, swirls, light oxidation, holograms and tree sap.
To help retailers communicate the G3 Pro message in-store and to assist them in maximising sales, Farécla can provide technical guides and posters as well as display units.
Finally, one product that’s proving particularly popular with forecourt owners themselves is Ma Fra’s HP12 degreaser, which Davies says, makes petrol and especially diesel pumps come up like new. "Forecourt operators are buying cases of HP12 as they find it very difficult to get effective forecourt cleaners," he explains.
A recent EU directive means that Adblue tanks will now be fitted in new diesel cars. Adblue (also known as diesel exhaust fluid) reduces harmful NOx emissions by up to 80% by converting them into nitrogen and steam.
If a vehicle runs out of Adblue it will fail to start, so forecourt retailers should be prepared for emergency situations caused by empty tanks and for drivers keeping a bottle in their cars ’just in case’. In response to this, Holts is launching a new Redex Adblue product for diesel cars. It has a unique bottle design to make storing and pouring the liquid easy. The 1.5ltr bottle has an rrp of £8.99, and provides drivers with enough Adblue to top up their tanks and keep driving.
As such it’s described as a ’must stock’ product for forecourts, as drivers will need to make sure they have sufficient Adblue reserves while on the road and will look to petrol stations to satisfy this demand.
Adblue tanks and the system they’re attached to can be sensitive, so car owners need to avoid contaminating the system with foreign materials.
The Redex Adblue bottle has a controlled pouring system with a start/stop function, so no liquid is spilled during filling and no other equipment is needed. The bottle can be stored easily in a car until it’s needed or used right there on the forecourt, making it the perfect solution for drivers to fill up whenever, wherever.
Bruce Ellis, technical director at Holts, says: "An empty Adblue tank means a stationary car, so there will always be drivers needing Adblue in an emergency. Adblue tanks are designed to an international standard requiring a specific nozzle to interface with the tank opening. Free pouring is impossible and results in spillage, unpleasant odours and waste."
The Redex refilling bottle has been designed to the international standard for drivers’ peace of mind, eliminating the risk of spillage and offering a safe and convenient way to store and pour the liquid.
Jean Watkins, cluster manager, Certas Energy says:
"Certas Energy owns and operates eight Gulf-branded forecourts across the Scottish central belt and we stock a car care range in every one alongside a comprehensive range of Gulf lubricants and ancillary products. We see it as an important part of customer service, although the shelf space allocated is determined locally.
"Some sites have worked hard over many years to build up their car care business and these will stock a comprehensive range including Gulf lubricants, antifreeze and de-icers, bulbs, cleaning fluids and polishes, wiper blades, air fresheners, iPad chargers and USB adaptors. Invariably these sites tend to have more spacious forecourts with plenty of off-pump parking with some customers happy to spend an hour or more tinkering and keeping their cars clean.
"In smaller outlets, the size of the car care range is often determined by shop size and the importance of speedy transactions to keep the forecourt moving.
"We ensure that our shops are always fully stocked and properly merchandised utilising a mix of shelf space and peg boards to maximise the offering. Presentation is just as important as ensuring that forecourt washes and vacs are clean, modern and well maintained at all times."