For its 40th anniversary, Road & Rally Discount Accessories held a trade show at the Proact Stadium in Chesterﬁeld for its customers and suppliers. To ﬁnd out a little more about the business and the success of its milestone celebrations, PMF took the opportunity to visit the factor’s Whittington Moor branch.
“We were very worried that no one would turn up to our big day!” laughed Louisa Mitchell, one of Road & Rally’s Directors and daughter of its Founder, Ian Mitchell. “But there was no reason to stress in the end; we had 23 suppliers come along and over 200 visitors!This more than surpassed our expectations and we have only had positive reviews from those who attended. As we had hoped, it proved to be a
brilliant way of getting everyone under one roof to interact and socialise, which, after all, is what makes being an independent business all the more fulfilling.”
The Road & Rally name has been an institution around the Derbyshire, South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire area ever since its first store opened in 1978. From that point onwards, the business has blossomed, growing its reach and outlets to establish itself as the go-to distributor for the many smaller motor factors, retail shops and garages surrounding it.
The customer comes ﬁrst
Today, the factor has six branches – Whittington Moor, Boythorpe, Mansfield, Shirebrook, Sheffield and Dronfield – and is a loyal member of the PDP Group. For many businesses, such an expansion could lead to customers being left behind, but for Road & Rally there has always been a huge amount of value placed on maintaining these relationships.
Louisa explained, “I grew up in the business. I was six years old when the first branch opened and I spent much of my childhood at the Shirebrook and Boythorpe branches, including my first summer break at university, when the business was being computerised and it was my job to input all the part numbers into the new system! Those early days were great, some of the staff back then are still with us now, so if there was one lesson that really stuck with me, it was that people make up the heart and soul of a business.
“I guess this is why Andy [Andy Lees, Road & Rally Director and General Manager] and I decided to put on a show for all those in our network in honour of the big 40th. The Whittington Moor branch is only a hundred metres or so from the Proact Stadium, which made the venue decision for us, and then after that we just had to make sure there was enough food and drink. We circulated the message to our customers and suppliers, offering them the opportunity to enter a number of competitions and raffles, and it all quickly fell into place.
“Everyone who came seemed to find it worthwhile and enjoyable. Business was done, but there was also plenty of time to relax and get to know people. It was everything we could have hoped for!”
Sitting down with Andy, he was keen to express that none of this would have been possible if Road & Rally wasn’t a stalwart for independence in a fast-changing industry. Opting in to the PDP group simultaneously allowed the factor to keep its well-established name and connections, whilst also providing plenty more avenues to explore when it comes to sourcing product.
“It is fairly uncommon that you hear about a factor putting on its own trade show for customers and suppliers alike. Having the independence and freedom to take on ambitious challenges like this is something that many businesses may not readily be able to do, but because of our position, we can stray from the usual on occasion and make the customer experience that little bit more engaging,” explained Andy.
Andy Lees arrived at Road & Rally in August 2017 after a long and varied career within the aftermarket, working for a number of well-respected parts manufacturers. His experience meant that he recognised all that was good within the business and was keen to add his knowledge to the process.
“I saw how much Louisa and her father have invested and I wanted to be part of that. Undoubtedly, providing for the customer is a focus for the company, but I saw that Road & Rally employees were cherished just as much. This is something that really hit home for me; a sense that everyone involved is valued. After all, running a successful business is about investing in people,” remarked Andy.
Investing in people
Andy’s words echoed the widely held belief that a business’ reputation is based on the people that represent it. Hitting the point home, Louisa recounted a story of one instance when she had to change the delivery driver routes: “A couple of months back, we needed to make a few adjustments to the drivers’ delivery routes. One of those affected was Percy, a driver who has been working for us for a number of years and is very popular with his particular line of customers. The route changes, however, meant that he was no longer visiting the same people.
“Within days we had customers wondering where Percy had gone and when he would be returning. Such was the feedback that we just had to put him back on his original route – now affectionately called ‘Percy’s Run’. Once this was done things returned to normal, but it just goes to show how much of an effect the right employee can have.”
Although still bearing relevance today, Louisa’s anecdote will remind many of a golden era of factoring, perhaps to the days when Road & Rally had not long opened its doors. However, the industry is changing, a fact not lost on Louisa and Andy, who are now looking to host training evenings for both staff and customers to stay ahead of the trend.
Andy commented, “It has become clear that training is a necessity to ensure the longevity of the aftermarket. Staying clued up on how the latest components and technology fit into the everyday life of a factor or garage can make the difference when it comes to the bottom line. Parts should not be returned due to a lack of knowledge; it is simply too costly for a business. Having that extra training will hopefully fill this gap and, therefore, make the whole process run smoothly.
“Road & Rally has been supplying parts and accessories for four decades, and it’s our mission to make sure that this continues for many years to come.”