For retailer Nick Baker, screenwash and air fresheners are far more than just extra products hidden away at the back of his shop.
These, and other car care products, are given pride of place and plenty of room at his Jet site near Darlington, County Durham. And, at a time when most filling stations seem to be reducing their car care displays, Nick is bucking the trend and actually increasing his range of products, a strategy which has proved very profitable.
"When I took this site over three years ago, I decided to really go to town and promote car care," he says. "I’m lucky because the store has a lot of space, so I just said to my suppliers: ’you’re the experts, you planogram it and I’ll do what you suggest’. In the three years, sales have increased by about 40%."
Yorkshire-based GWD Convenience Distribution helped plan the car care display and about 10% of the total shopfloor space is now given over to car care at the Newton Park site, which is located just off the A1.
Nick says that the category shouldn’t be overlooked as it can really help boost overall sales. However, car care is still a very minor category for many retailers. According to market research company Him, only 1% of shoppers intend to buy car care when they enter a forecourt store, and only 1% actually do buy it. In addition, 1% of forecourt shoppers told researchers that they would like to see an improved range of car care.
Manufacturers say retailers are missing a trick if they ignore the category, and the recession is apparently the perfect time to increase your car care display.
Autoglym marketing assistant, Vicky Elliott, explains: "We have found that we haven’t been hit as hard as a lot of companies have by the recession. Our sector has been fairly resilient. A lot of people still want to protect and look after their vehicles rather than buy a new one. The car care category is alive and well, there is plenty of innovation going on and there are still a lot of profit opportunities. Retailers are always pushed for space in their shops, but they really should try to give as much space as they can to car care.
"Car care can often be an impulse purchase, the customer might not have entered the shop thinking they were going to buy any car care products but they might change their mind once they spot something. A lot has to do with presentation and making sure products are grouped properly."
Elliott also feels that retailers are well placed to compete with the big players such as Halfords. She says: "The car care aisle can be quite extensive in shops such as Halfords, with too much to choose from. This can confuse customers. Retailers can narrow down the choice in forecourt stores and make it easier for customers to find what they want. We also provide posters and guides that retailers can use to help people make an informed choice."
Andrew Freeman, European marketing director at Turtle Wax, says the company has seen an increase in people washing their cars at home. So while a forecourt’s car wash or jet wash business might suffer, retailers can still cash in on the car care category in their shop.
Freeman says: "Consumers have bought more car care products in the past year (source: market research company GfK), particularly car shampoos, paint restorers and specialist cleaners for plastic, synthetics and glass.
"This could be a reflection of the recession a growing number of consumers are opting to wash their cars at home rather than at forecourt car washes and hand car washes. This would suggest the importance of retailing car care products from forecourts.
"Another casualty of the recession is the weak new car market, where potential car buyers are choosing to maintain their existing vehicles until they feel their economic situation improves. Consumers have increasingly opted to buy their car care products while doing the weekly shop, or as they fill up at their local petrol station, reinforcing the need for effective merchandising and product adjacency for cross selling."
Freeman adds that premium brands have continued to sell well at the expense of own label and lesser-known brands because consumers want quality and ’deliverability’ in their car care purchases.
He says Turtle Wax has seen increased sales across all categories of paint care and specialist cleaners and has continued to invest in PR and TV advertising for its premium Ice range.
With lubricants, ExxonMobil says the key for retailers is to educate their customers about what’s available. The company recently relaunched Mobil 1 and explains that the packaging has been revamped to make customer choice easier.
Supported by an extensive marketing campaign, Mobil 1 aims to increase consumer demand by reigniting the motorist’s passion for driving. The campaign includes a ’Motoring Marathon’ tour of the UK by TV chef James Martin, which is due to kick off this month and aims to inform consumers about the advantages of the Mobil 1 range.
In addition, the oil company has carried out some research which has uncovered the following statistics:
45% of cars are low on oil the equivalent of 13.9 million cars
17% are dangerously low on oil
27% of motorists never check their oil level
47% of motorists do not check it regularly enough.
A spokeswoman states: "With these statistics in mind it is easy to understand why 65% of all one-litre oil sales are purchased outside the franchised network and why the ’educational’ role of the dealer is as important as ever.
"Dealers need to communicate the benefits of Mobil 1 to their workshop and retail customers. They can no longer afford to be passive observers and should look to embrace after-market oil sales as a profitable revenue line for the business. Not only are motorists holding onto their vehicles for longer, they are becoming more conscious than ever about running costs. As a result, they are more tempted to purchase cheaper, non-grade specific oils completely unaware of the potential damage they are causing to their engines, catalysts and diesel particulate filters. It is therefore important that service advisers convey the associated benefits of using a top grade oil, but that customers understand the false economy risks associated. Sales support material can help reinforce the upgrade and top-up message, and with extended drain intervals make service work less frequent, a pro-active customer retention strategy, coupled with marketing initiatives, is a must."
Jet revamped its engine oils last year, relaunching them as the JetMax range. As well as giving the range a fresh look, it introduced a new product JetMax Pro 5W30 and replaced the existing four- litre bottle with five litres at no extra cost to the consumer.
Patrick Hudson, Jet marketing manager retail, comments: "Today’s vehicles are demanding engine oils that need to work a lot harder for much longer in their modern, high-tech engines. JetMax, made up of four different products, will cover over 70% of the lubricant requirements for modern day vehicles."
Meanwhile, retailer Nick says it is important to know your customer base and determine what the best sellers are. At his site at Newton Park, like most others, car care sales are very seasonal but he says items such as screenwash and air fresheners do very well all year round. Also, Newton Park’s location means the site gets a lot of HGV traffic, and Nick has set up an HGV display opposite the general car care display.
He says: "The HGV drivers do like their novelty-type items rope lights and electric fans all sell well. We also sell a lot of tachographs which record speed and distance travelled and if the driver has had an appropriate rest. And due to our location, a lot of our car care sales are a distress purchase if the oil light comes on or a bulb goes on the A1 drivers have to stop."
Autoglym is one company which has been rolling out new products into the sector. Recent launches include the Air-Con Sanitizer, rrp £11.99, which is described as a long-lasting anti-microbial sanitiser which eliminates harmful bacteria and bad odours from air conditioning systems.
Elliott says: "Most drivers keep their air conditioner systems turned off over winter which means they can have a nasty smell when they turn them on in the warmer weather.
"This is largely due to the bacteria in there generating the bad smells. With this product, the car is switched on and the air vents opened, and the can is then placed in the passenger seat footwell for about 20 minutes.
"This problem is quite common among customers at the moment, and a lot of them don’t even realise what is causing the smell." It also works to disinfect upholstery and carpets inside the vehicle.
Last year Autoglym also introduced a more specialised Surface Detailing Clay Kit. This is made up of a High Definition Cleanser to remove any surface residues such as road grime, old waxes etc as well as dust and grime.
The kit contains a Surface Detailing Clay Bar designed to ’grab’ microscopic particles and pull them from the surface, leaving an extra smooth finish in preparation for polishing.
The products aren’t cheap £25.99 for the kit but Elliot says the company is trying to cater for all customers in the market and that there is a good opportunity for boosting sales by stocking a wide variety of products.
Other new products include Autoglym’s Hi-Tech Microfibre Drying Towel, rrp £12.99. The 60cm x 60cm towel is described as being extremely absorbent, leaving a smear-free finish, and designed for easier and quicker drying of vehicles after washing.
In addition, Autoglym has been running a series of 100% extra free promotions across its product range, which Elliott says have been a great success.
These have run across a variety of products, such as shampoo or wheel cleaner, for a period of about six months before the company changes the offer to different products.
Meanwhile, California Scents has launched its Green Label eco-friendly air fresheners. The company says Green Label uses its ’spillproof’ technology, using pads made from recyclable vegetable and plant fibres.
Each eco-friendly air freshener is formulated with natural, high-quality fragrance oils with no volatile compounds. Packed with 35g of pure organic fragrance oil, the scent is designed to last up to 60 days and is available in either fresh flowers, waterfall mist or wild berry.
David Porcelli, California Scents vice president of sales, says: "Consumers are continuing to look for ways to make a positive impact on the world they live in. Green Label air fresheners allow them to freshen the air in the home with no harmful chemicals and without leaving any tracks as the product and packaging are fully recyclable.
"Air fresheners are the ideal way to maximise your car care profits. Car care consumers who are doing more to maintain their vehicles are going to be looking for ways to enhance their cars’ cleanliness and the right fragrance adds to the experience.
"Air fresheners are the perfect item for the car care area, enabling retailers to trade up consumers with the right impulse purchase opportunity.
"Easily displayed, air fresheners will increase your average market basket spend with car care consumers."
Top tips for retailers:
1. Always remember to employ linked sales opportunities (up-sell items across the range).
2. Display point-of-sale material in visible areas throughout the store and shop-front area. Various items of point-of-sale can also highlight seasonal opportunities.
3. Stock a comprehensive display.
4. Display products of one brand in one blocked area as this makes the buying process easier for consumers.
5. Stock an array of gift sets. These are popular with new users and those seeking gifts for family members or friends.