Margins are good. There’s no hassle with short shelf life, so why are so many forecourts ignoring car care items? It seems the lure of selling chilled ready meals and every variety of soft drink possible has pushed car accessories out the door. However Graham Tissiman, sales and marketing manager at the Convenience Distribution Group (CDG), reckons car care is worth stocking: "Not only does it satisfy customers’ expectations, it also is the second highest profit making category in terms of percentage margin (behind hot drinks-to-go). Unlike fresh or chilled food, with car accessories there is not the problem of sell-by dates or the running cost of the chiller cabinets. There is very limited investment in running the category in terms of equipment, stock or labour costs. We deliver in single units so there is not the problem of storing cases of products and we offer merchandising and seasonal re-profiling assistance via our trained sales reps."
Seasonality is key when it comes to car care, with summer and winter the two main ones to watch. Tissiman continues: "We have a winter car care planogram with the focus on impulse/distress-related products such as de-icer, scrapers and screenwash. In the summer we re-merchandise and expand the valeting sector to the top shelf.
"The key to good car care is having the right product at the right time. There’s nothing worse than seeing a can of de-icer on display in June."
Tissiman divides the category into three:
l Impulse air fresheners, polish, shampoo and dashboard shine
l Distress bulbs, fuses, tow ropes and petrol cans
l Winter de-icer, screenwash and scrapers.
He says the recent harsh winters have seen new product trends emerging: "We’ve found that trigger de-icers have been particularly successful as they’re more effective and have better environmental credentials than aerosols."
When it comes to car washing and polishing, he says there’s been growth in the use of microfibre products: "We’ve introduced the Kent Car Wash mitt to take advantage of this non-scratch technology and its improved cleaning ability."
He reports that the Armorall wipes range has been selling well because it gives consumers an easy way to clean their cars. Recent additions to the line up are exterior wipes: Bug & Tar, Quick Shine and Exterior Trim Wipes.
Donna Howard, retail business manager for Farécla, agrees that forecourt stores should stock all the ’essentials’ such as oil, wax and windscreen cleaner.
"The range should change according to the seasons to fight off the elements and grime a car collects from the weather. Products such as Mer Rainaway, which is available in 500ml bottles, rrp £8.99, effectively repels rain from windscreens and visors at speeds above 40mph and improves driver visibility without the constant use of windscreen wipers. Also we have Mer All-Clear, Anti-Fog De-mister (500ml, rrp £6.99) and Mer Ultimate Car Polish, which is a professional treatment which cleans, shines and protects a vehicle from rain, snow, sea salt and frost.
Farécla has just launched a G3 Formula range which Howard says will provide consumers with leading bodyshop quality products and the ability to achieve the best possible results without the necessity of professional skills and professional equipment.
"With over 50 years’ experience in developing some of the most effective and technologically-advanced surface finishing products available, G3 has long been used in bodyshops throughout the country, but now has been launched as a consumer range."
The G3 Formula range includes applicator waffle pads at £5.99; bodywork detox at £7.49; scratch remover at £7.99; paint renovator at £9.99; and resin superwax at £12.99.
Howard says: "Previously, there was only limited access to bodyshop innovation outside of the professional sphere and many consumers were hesitant about using traditional paint renovation products because they were not delivering on expectations.
"As a result many consumers either spent money taking bodywork to be corrected professionally or neglected the bodywork altogether.
"We’re confident that G3 Formula will enhance the consumer’s perception of paint renovation products and deliver an affordable range that will exceed their expectations. G3 Formula is quick, easy to use and allows for professional results to be achieved without risk."
Air fresheners are something every forecourt should stock. According to Sara Lee’s 2010 Air Freshener category report, the car freshener market is worth £17.2m and growing at 6%. The biggest brand by far is Magic Tree with a 43% share of the market followed by Ambi Pur Car with just over 17%.
CDG’s Tissiman says air fresheners are a big seller and particularly popular at the moment are the Jelly Belly ones, which are now available in a pump spray which complements the hanging version.
Saxon is the UK distributor for Magic Tree. And chief executive David Kent reckons these air fresheners offer forecourts a massive sales opportunity.
"Magic Tree is an impulse purchase a feelgood purchase. It’s a product like chocolate that’s relatively cheap but cheers you up. Every forecourt should be stocking Magic Tree."
The range of scents is now massive but Kent says the best sellers are black ice and new car, and they sell for £2-3.
"Magic Tree is an iconic brand that’s been around a long time. It crosses generations. We bring out a couple of new varieties every year but it’s really the ones that have been around for a while that sell best."
Meanwhile, the Sonax valeting range, which is used by the Vodafone Mercedes McLaren F1 team, is now available in the UK exclusively through Saxon.
The UK launch is backed by advertising in Auto Express and What Car, which starts this month.
According to Andrew Freeman, European marketing director at Turtle Wax, forecourt retailers should take advantage of the fact that their customers are in a "car-orientated mood" when visiting forecourts and, in particular, after a long drive will tend to notice the cleanliness (or otherwise) of the interior of their car. To cash in on this, Turtle Wax has just launched a range of interior cockpit protectants in four intense fragrances: zest, berry, refresh and glacier, all based on real perfume fragrances. The Turtle Wax Fresh Shine 300ml Spritzers clean; restore, shine and protect all automotive interior trim. They are safe for use on petrol forecourts and, because they are solvent free, are seen as preferable to aerosol formats.
Says Freeman: "Why not consider merchandising them via an offer such as with a small white cloth or duster? This could boost impulse purchases and sales potential."
In terms of exterior valeting, he says the must-stock items include a high-quality car shampoo and car wax. "We recommend the best sellers Turtle Wax zip wax wash and wax, and Turtle Wax original liquid car wax. For the wheels, which take most of the battering on a long motorway journey, Turtle Wax wheel cleaner is safe for all wheel types and for the tyres, Turtle Wax wet ’n’ black offers instant deep black, wet-looking tyres."
However, Turtle Wax recognises that shelf space is limited and so has come up with a space-saving initiative. Turtle Wax 60 wash 300ml is an ultra concentrated shampoo offering 60 washes in a small bottle format measuring just 55mm wide x 135mm high. Retailing at a similar price to a one-litre car shampoo, this would be ideal for counter-top sales.
Says Freeman: "The reduced packaging and reduced water content in the 60-wash product also means that there are environmental benefits."
Car care items and accessories take up around 40% of floor space in Ajay Modhvadia’s Sisco Service Station near March, Cambridgeshire.
"We’ve a garage next door so it’s important that we carry car accessories. I think it’s wrong that you go into some forecourts and you can’t get a bulb but you can get a ready meal. We sell everything from bulbs, to brake pads and oil filters.
"If we can’t help a customer find what they want, we buzz through to the workshop and they will help us find what the customer needs. We’ve also got access to the internet so we can check which bulbs and oil a customer needs.
"Pricing is very important as we are competing with the likes of Halfords. I keep an eye on their prices and slightly undercut them.
"Margins are good on these products 50% and higher. Best sellers include wiper blades, oil and bulb. Polish sales vary depending on the weather. Our range changes in the winter it focuses on anti-freeze and screenwash while in the summer it’s polishes and sponges.
"Overall air fresheners are our best sellers. People of all ages buy them and are quite happy to pay £3-4 for one; they just put it on their credit card with their fuel."
Magic Tree top 10 sellers in Europe
1.New car scent
9.Bubble berry - fun pink
Source: Saxon Brands