Arnold Clark Autoparts plans continued expansion

Arnold Clark Autoparts plans continued expansion

We paid Arnold Clark’s Glasgow head office a flying visit a couple of months back, keen to understand the strategy behind Autoparts, the car retailer’s motor factor arm since 1991. Editor Tom Henman was chaperoned by Group Factor Manager and IAAF President, Craig McCracken.

Luton to Glasgow – and back again – was a slog but it was well worth it! Craig, donning the famous red and blue tie, was a fantastic host. Tours can be slow, tedious, but this was the polar opposite; Craig was on fantastic form, full of fun but mixed with experience, professionalism and leadership qualities.

A lap of Arnold Clark HQ – what a place, by the way! – with proud company history emblazoned throughout the building was followed by a short trip to its Innovation Centre. This is a significant investment as the company looks to the future and adapts to new technologies. From interactive vehicles to tailored test drives in alternatively-fuelled cars, the facility is designed to “learn, charge, drive and change”!

This stop emphasised the importance of staying competitive in an ever-evolving landscape and keeping up with the latest trends, technologies, and products to stay relevant – a view echoed by Craig:

“Arnold Clark focuses on meeting the needs of our customers and motorists, hence placing big emphasis on future mobility, be it electric or any other powertrain technology, in order to remain competitive and innovative.

“As we see sales of electric cars increase exponentially year on year, there is more demand for EV maintenance products, vehicles and information. The focus at our Innovation Centres in Glasgow and Stafford isn’t on selling but helping to educate customers about the changes to the automotive industry.”

Moving onto the GTG training centre: simply, it was magnificent! I was so impressed by the commitment Arnold Clark has made in the development and training of industry professionals. Enhancing the knowledge and skills within our sector is vital, and it warmed my heart to see individuals of all ages and skills embracing training and looking to improve their craft.

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Craig said: “We are committed to investing in skills, and in people, be that young people first entering the industry or seasoned pros looking to upskill. Our GTG training centres help to shine a light on the importance of investing in the workforce of the future.

“Not only are our apprenticeships and training courses for traditional motor trade roles, such as technicians, spray painters, body repairers and parts advisors, but there are also opportunities for apprentices and training in positions, such as IT, engineering, customer service and business admin.”

Autoparts warehouse makes an impression

Visiting the Autoparts warehouse and ecommerce department, however, was the highlight of the day. Seeing the efficient operations of the warehouse reinforced the importance of effective supply chain management and online presence. It underscored the significance of having a robust inventory system and a user-friendly online store. There I learned of Autoparts’ new trade website, which grants customers 24/7 access to the group’s product range. It allows visitors to browse and compare pricing, and see which parts are available for any registered vehicle using the licence plate look-up tool.

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On the website’s impact from both a company and customer perspective, Craig said: “Garages are constantly evolving, and technicians are much more digital savvy nowadays. The new e-commerce platform for the trade revolutionises the Arnold Clark Autoparts customer experience and is the latest innovation in our digital roadmap that is set to maximise efficiency between Arnold Clark Autoparts and our customers.

“The human element isn’t lost either; we have a dedicated customer service team on-hand, via a live chat on the website, to handle any questions or issues.”

Autoparts stretching its legs!

Craig also informed me of a recent opening of a new branch – this one is located in Chesterfield (below) – all part of expanding Arnold Clark Autoparts’ network. It was a case of seizing an opportunity when it came knocking.

He explained: “We will always look at opportunities when they arise, either by acquisition or setting up of new branches.

“It’s an exciting time for the company, as we expand with new branches across the north of England to serve more trade customers than ever before.

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“Continued investment will ensure we are firmly placed to meet the challenges of the future, serving independent garages with extensive availability of high-quality products.”

Finger on the pulse

The opportunities, the investment, the desire to push the business forward are what makes Craig “immensely proud”. After more than 30 years, starting as a junior within the company, he declared that being put of “such a forward-thinking and innovative organisation” is what’s kept the fire burning strong.

He added: “The growth of Autoparts has been phenomenal and being close to our customers and suppliers has been key to our success. Offering them not just parts, but also training, technical support, garage equipment, information sources and much more. Here’s to many more years to come!

Of course, in Craig’s ‘other’ role as IAAF president, he can continue to network with other industry experts, and he’s well-placed to offer an opinion on the current condition of the aftermarket:

“There has always been opportunity and challenge in equal measure in this industry, and the aftermarket must unite if it is to really champion affordable mobility for motorists.

“As part of the IAAF, our activity is seeing challenges the industry is facing and bringing garages, motor factors and suppliers together, so they can face any threats and opportunities head on, whether that is access to data, skills, recruitment etc.

“I’m proud to be part of such a dynamic, ever-changing, growing and exciting industry.”

For more information about Arnold Clark Autoparts, click here.

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