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.

The category merits a prime position in the forecourt’s shop opposite the tills so anyone coming in can see it straight away. It is allocated 2.6m of space, with three shelves for lubes and two for car care/travel accessories.

Fraser’s Budgens’ director, Nick Fraser, says: "We have recognised the importance of ensuring a good selection of products relevant to the local customers, allocating a large area to valeting and maintenance products. There is also a high proportion of space allocated to the transient and local customer (including tourists), with key emergency items including travel accessories, phone-charging accessories, tow ropes and jump leads."

Air fresheners have a strong presence too with the latest styles and fragrances on display. Air fresheners are mentioned time and again by forecourt retailers and that’s because they make excellent impulse purchases.

Graham Tissiman, sales and marketing manager at CDG, says no-one ever wakes up in the morning thinking they must buy a new car freshener but, positioned correctly in-store, they can be really profitable lines.

CDG offers an extensive range of air fresheners including California Scents in cans, which can be popped under the seat in the car or placed in a cup holder.

But Tissiman says one of the most popular ranges is Jelly Belly in mouthwatering flavours such as Very Cherry, Bubble Gum and Lemon Drop. There are 2D and 3D hanging fresheners as well as sprays. A nifty counter stand is available from CDG, who will update the contents every two months to keep shoppers interested in the range.

Also available are the best-selling Little Trees in standard scents as well as three X-Tra Strengths: Black Ice, Vanillaroma and New Car Scent. Other household names are included in CDG’s range too such as Air Wick. Two products are available: 2D cards and a capillary action product with three levels of fragrance control.

"There are very few products like air fresheners which are great promotional products that sell really well on impulse," says Tissiman.

Seasonal sales

During key season times, such as winter, extra space is made at Fraser’s of Marlborough for screenwash, de-icer and antifreeze.

Outside the shop, again in a prime position, is a bunker containing screenwash along with Adblue for commercial truck drivers.

The oil section contains brand-leading Castrol alongside equivalent grades from Comma for more price-conscious customers. Nick says oil recommendation guides are available, backed up by friendly, knowledgeable staff who are always keen to offer help and advice.

Oil, or rather choosing it, can be a bit of a nightmare with all the different types available, but Brian Carlyle, lubricants sales manager at Certas Energy, believes Gulf has the answer. "Lubricants can be a real problem for both a forecourt owner and for the driver of the vehicle whose oil light has just come on.

"It’s more than likely that both parties are unaware of what oil should go into the car, and of the consequences of using the wrong oil. Gulf may have helped solve this problem as, after recent research into which cars are driven in the UK, Gulf now offers just six oils to cover 93% of all the cars in the UK, in its company-owned forecourts."

He says this compact range was put together to cover as many makes of vehicle as possible, all using the least number of grades of oil.

Gulf has also designed a simple-to-use tool a shelf edger that gives a rough outline of what each oil covers, but also acts as a planogram for staff and as the price ticket too.

Carlyle says: "While it doesn’t cover every car, and drivers should always check their handbook for which oil they require, this shelf edger has had an immediate impact as sites now stock what is needed for the cars we have in the UK. The days of the wrong oil being used and the vehicle’s warranty being under threat of being breached have gone, and the days of shelves full of oil that shouldn’t be used in modern cars ie 20w/50 and 15w/40 are now a distant memory for these forecourts."

Expanded range

A store extension gave Newby Bridge Services in Ulverston the opportunity to increase its range of car care items and lubricants. Before, the space used for these products was just 2m but half that space was hidden in the corner because of the positioning of some fridges.

Store manager Kirsty Rayson says: "Customers were constantly asking for products we just did not have the shelf space to stock and who knows how many other customers took their business elsewhere because they couldn’t find the items they wanted.

"We now have four metres dedicated to these products which is so much better as we carry a range of lubricants, the expected lines such as screenwash and air fresheners and also bulbs, emergency products, car valeting lines and many accessories."

Kirsty says they settled on their extended range after looking at the previous good sellers, listening to what customers suggested and also including the best-selling lines from their supplier GAP Convenience Distribution.

"We believe the range we stock now suits all needs and budgets. Our nearest car accessory shop is over 10 miles away and, with our rural location on a major road into the Lake District, we are now able to say that we have been of benefit to our local community as well as passers-by.

"We’re also a huge help to holidaymakers who don’t know the local area."

Kirsty says her staff all have good knowledge of the products: "Some drivers find car products very intimidating and having someone to help can really put their mind at rest. Because of this, we have gained regular customers who trust us enough to recommend products, give them advice or spend a little time pointing them in the right direction.

"We believe more and more people are attempting minor car repairs themselves as they do not have the time, or possibly the budget, to book their car into the local garage to do something they, with a little help, could do themselves."

Just a year after the car care department expansion, Kirsty says they’ve seen an 85% increase in sales. "Due to the high margins, this area of the store is one of the best profit-wise from the space allocated."

Profit centre

CDG’s Tissiman is keen to get the message across about the excellent margins you can get from car care lines, as well as the fact that the products more or less look after themselves as there are no sell-by dates and therefore no need for stock rotation as with many other products sold in forecourts nowadays. "Then there’s the simple fact that consumers expect to be able to find car care products in a forecourt store," he says.

He reckons there are certain items that are absolute ’must stocks’ rather than simply ’nice to haves’. Those must-stock items include petrol cans, jump leads, toe ropes, light bulbs, fuses and foot pumps or compressors the things drivers might need as a distress purchase.

"At this time of year it’s vital that forecourts stock petrol cans not just for drivers who have run out of fuel but for people who need to fill up petrol-driven machinery such as lawnmowers," he adds.

Still awash with opportunity

Rebecca Martin, brand manager for Simoniz, believes that despite the rise of the hand car wash operations, there’s still a market for car valeting lines.
"People are now doing both car washing at home and going to hand car washes. We know from research that 40% of people wash their car and 20% of them use car shampoo. However, the sales of car products have been affected as these people are also using hand car washes. Thirty per cent of people take their cars to a hand car wash at a supermarket or elsewhere. Yet still there are opportunities. For instance, 20% of people don’t use car shampoo and we need to educate them on the importance of doing that. And 27% don’t wash their cars so this is another growth opportunity."
She says that at Simoniz they ensure they have product benefits that are better than or different to what is already out in the marketplace: "We ensure we meet consumer needs and our shampoo research proves this as we are interested in understanding how important the following are to consumers and what value they put on them: performance, viscosity, fragrance and appearance."
As an example, Martin says Simoniz’s dual action car shampoo offers superior deep cleaning combined with protecting a car’s paintwork against harmful eposits. Rrp is £5 for one litre.

Adding extra profits

Graham Tissiman, sales and marketing manager at the Convenience Distribution Group, reckons forecourts can benefit from stocking fuel additives. He recommends SDP Diesel Particulate Filter Cleaner (rrp £6.99), which is specially formulated to remove soot particles and carbon from diesel particulate filters. One treatment helps unclog filters by removing any accumulated unburnt soot.
And it would seem that Tissiman has a point as the UK’s largest motoring retailer Halfords has reported that sales of fuel additives have soared since the emissions scandal last year.
Its best performer is Redex Diesel Fuel System Cleaner, which saw a sales increase of more than 200% in just one month last autumn.  
Fuel additives that clean diesel filters, catalytic converters and the fuel injection system on cars are an effective way of ensuring a vehicle is operating as efficiently as possible. They’re convenient for drivers too as they can easily be poured into a fuel tank when filling up.
Tissiman reckons there’s another sales opportunity from Adblue, as Adblue tanks are now fitted in all new diesel cars. He recommends forecourts stock the convenient Redex Adblue 1.5ltr bottle. It has a unique design to make storing and pouring the liquid easy. Rrp is £9.99, and the 1.5ltr size provides drivers with enough Adblue to top up their tanks and keep driving.
"The advent of Adblue tanks in diesel cars means stocking Adblue is a must because the cars have a warning light that tells drivers when the Adblue is low. And once that light comes on they need to fill up or the car will start to run poorly or even stop working."