An increasing number of people are rolling up our sleeves and washing their cars. With drivers watching their wallets as the credit crunch continues, DIY car care is definitely on the agenda, so don’t ignore this category.
David Rogers, sales and marketing director at Autoglym, says: "There are probably less people spending money, but the people who are spending it on car care are spending more. It’s all to do with the current economic climate. For us, shampoos and polishes are the biggest sellers from our range with independent retailers. We’re also seeing good sales in wheel cleaner as well as leather cleaner. People are definitely spending time looking after their vehicles."
According to Rogers, this year’s weather has also helped sales. He says: "You need two or three good days of settled weather for people to start cleaning their cars, if they think it’s going to rain the next day they think, why bother? This year we’ve had some periods of settled weather and it’s been good for business. We’ve been staggered by this year’s sales - they’re level with the same time last year, which was itself quite a good year."
In fact, one of Autoglym’s products that’s doing particularly well is a premium wax. Launched last year, the company claims High Definition Wax produces an unparalleled lustre and depth of shine. It’s Autoglym’s first retail solid wax and it isn’t cheap. With a rrp of £39.99, it comes as a complete kit, including wax, two applicators, and a specially-developed microfibre cloth. Rogers says: "This product has been developed to a ’no expense spared’ formula, and will produce an unparalleled shine with durability to match. It is one of the most significant new retail products we have ever launched. British car owners are probably more enthusiastic about their cars than any other car owners in Europe - they’re nuts about their cars."
Retailer Andrew Wass, who runs the Co-operative Group forecourt in Alnwick, Northumberland, agrees that the weather plays a vital part in car care sales. Andrew, manager at the site - named best Car Care & Lubricants Outlet in last year’s Forecourt Trader of the Year Awards, explains: "The category is very seasonal, and it’s important to react quickly to seasonal changes. For example, bulbs for headlights are big sellers in the winter. In addition, displays should be well stocked with a wide variety of products all year round to satisfy every customer’s needs. Most sales in this category are products bought on impulse, like air fresheners. So it’s essential to stock a decent selection and have them in a prominent position."
Andrew Freeman, European marketing director for Turtle Wax, says people are keeping their cars for longer but are spending money on looking after them to protect their investment. He adds: "Saving time and value for money have always been high up the agenda for consumers but the recession has made these issues more important than ever. The throwaway consumer of recent years is definitely being replaced by a more considered consumer who, despite being time poor, will still demand value. Considered consumers will always favour a trusted well-known brand that they can rely on to deliver the best results.
"Consumers are looking to protect their investment by keeping their car in prime condition. Obviously, the bodywork is the first thing we notice about a car and customers are starting to realise it’s in their best interests to take good care of the outer shell. This means they need high quality shampoos, waxes and interior care products."
According to Freeman, washing the car isn’t a job everyone enjoys so the quicker it can be done the better. He says Turtlewax’s Ice range is popular because it can cut the time it takes to wax a car by half.
Meanwhile Exxon-Mobil is very proud of its Formula One connection with the Mobil 1 brand - and of course its link with Lewis Hamilton. A spokesman for the oil company says having Hamilton represent Mobil 1 has made the brand "more visible", adding that Mobil 1 is "arguably now the motorsport oil brand".
He adds: "The Mobil 1 oil technology employed in Formula One will often find its way into Mobil 1 products for road-going vehicles. Extensive Lewis Hamilton point-of-sale material is available and forecourt managers should be looking to utilise this to help signpost customers to their Mobil 1 oil range and drive sales."
Tetrosyl commercial director Martyn Sharp says that with more cars on the road, there is still a strong need for high-margin car care products in forecourts. Sharp says: "Car care is a vital category to offer in a forecourt as the customer will always expect certain automotive products to be stocked. One of the latest trends is that motorists are tending to do more small servicing jobs on their cars themselves. More motorists are changing the oil, coolant, wiper blades, bulbs etc themselves in an attempt to save on servicing costs. This is a great opportunity for forecourts to stock these products for the basic DIY jobs on cars."
Tetrosyl reports that its best-selling products in the valeting category are Triplewax shampoo, T-Cut colour restorer and Wonder Wheels alloy wheel cleaner. In air fresheners ’Fresh’, The Bug, Smiley and Pongo are strong performers. In addition, distress lines are important with products like petrol cans, Flat Mate emergency puncture foam, tow ropes and jump leads.
Tetrosyl recently bought International Automotive Distributors (IAD) - which trades as Maccess - and which Tetrosyl says is the largest distributor of car care products in the UK. Operating from 14 branches, Maccess stocks more than 25,000 product lines and offers category management to forecourts.
According to Tetrosyl, this combination of manufacturer and distributor can offer a specialised supply solution for all types of forecourt.
=== Retailer advice ===
l You car care range should cover four key areas: emergency and road side distress (petrol cans, replacement bulbs, puncture repair products, jump leads, tow ropes etc); vehicle maintenance products (oils, additives and screenwash); valeting (cloths and sponges); and impulse and travel aids (air fresheners, in-car accessories and road guides).
l Two different planograms are recommended for winter and summer because the weather has a big impact on which products sell well.
l Pricing on air fresheners should always be competitive to help drive impulse sales. Ensure products are visible and attractive by using high-impact displays.
l To grab customers’ attention offer innovative and attractive products and displays. Promotions and posters are also important to ensure awareness of products.
l Stock key sellers and react quickly when seasonal sales opportunities arise, eg de-icers and screenwash in winter.
=== What’s new ===
l Total has launched Quartz Ineo Ecs lubricant. According to the oil company, about 40% of the vehicle’s fuel consumption in "urban driving" comes from friction in the engine. The Quartz Ineo Ecs claims to help keep this friction at a minimum, resulting in a 3% reduction in fuel consumption (saving drivers a full tank of fuel every year). As well as keeping engines clean, Total says it also leads to a reduction in CO2 emissions of one metric tonne over the lifespan of the vehicle.
l Tetrosyl has launched the CarPlan Fresh range. Rather than covering odours temporarily, it eliminates them in the air and from car upholstery. The four products include a fresh scented oil diffuser, which clips to the vent; and fresh gel vent sticks, which are discreetly hidden in the air vent. Both use the air flow to circulate fragrance.
l Tetrosyl has also launched its Endangered Animals Air Fresheners. Ten pence from each one sold goes to Chester Zoo. There are four Endangered Animals balls with a rainforest fresh fragrance. They come in an eye-catching counter display unit to help drive impulse sales.
l Ambi Pur Car has revamped its air freshener device. There are five fragrances in a new compact device, which is available in three colours. Motorists clip the Ambi Pur diffuser and perfume bottle onto the car’s ventilation system and adjust the perfume strength - it lasts up to 60 days. Available in breathe easy eucalyptus & mint; Pacific air; vanilla; and odour naturizer anti-tobacco variants; as well as a ’for her’, which comes in a feminine pink device.