For this month’s Factor Focus, PMF talks to Mark Taylor at Express Car Parts in Horsham, West Sussex, about the year ahead and how the business deals with the daily challenges of running a multi-branch factor.
Q. Can you provide a little background information about the business?
Mark Taylor (MT): Express Car Parts is a two- branch operation that started in 1995 in Haywards Heath. The first shop was on Sussex Road and we stayed there for three- years before moving to our current location on Burrell Road. In 2009, we opened a second shop in Horsham, West Sussex.
The company is run by two directors, of which I am one and Gary Shepherd is the other. We employ eight people working across two depots.
Q. How was 2017 for you? Any big changes?
MT: This year has come with a few challenges but on the whole things are getting better and becoming more stable.At the start of the year, we had quite a few price fluctuations, as suppliers tried to deal with the pound against other currencies. This has now started to settle down and prices have risen as a result, which is something we will have to live with until the Brexit situation has become clearer. From a factor perspective, we have had to look at our stocking and purchasing processes, leading us to put more stock on the shelves to deal with everyday customer needs.
Q. What are your plans for the year ahead? What do you see as the challenges and threats that will need to be overcome?
MT: The plan for the year ahead is to gain more market share by becoming a one-stop shop for our customers. We are also looking at new products that offer variety, enabling us to provide a niche offering that is not always available from your everyday factor. We need to work on educating garages around what they can purchase from their local motor factor to retain their custom and keep us front of mind when they’re sourcing products.
Q. You currently work out of multiple branches, what prompted the move from a single-branch factor?
MT: In 2009, we opened the Horsham Branch mainly for logistic reasons. As it’s a bigger unit we can hold more stock and it’s also given us a bigger space to build our customer base.
Q. For factors who may also be interested in making the move, what would you say is the toughest challenge?
MT: The biggest challenges for any multi- branch operation is finding good staff, retaining them and getting good suppliers on board.Anotherthingtobeconsideredis having a good bank that truly understands you and your business.
Q. Logistics and deliveries are clearly important when working from more than one site, how have you managed this to prevent customer disappointment?
MT: We use the MAM computer system to manage stock control. We also have a transfer system that runs twice a day between depots. In addition, we have set up an overnight service from all of our suppliers, many on a before 10am service for any product. With many cars now on our roads, it will always be a challenge to keep up with what is required on a day-to-day basis.
Q. How do you decide on which brands to stock?
MT: Being part of the PDP buying group helps to determine what products we stock, enabling us to find quality products and better deals. Our main objective is to offer products that are made to OE quality such as Textar, Mahle, First Line, Yuasa and Einbach. Textar brakes, for example, are claimed to be precision engineered and offer safety, performance and comfort. The full range also covers the majority of the UK car parc, which is a big selling point for our customers when ordering parts for a number of vehicles.
Q. Stock management is top of the priorities list for many motor factors – how has Express Car Parts managed to keep up, particularly across more than one branch?
MT: Stock management is a tough challenge for any factor and this is an area where you need suppliers to work with you to help increase custom. Working together to help one another is always the best route to take. With our suppliers, we decide on a product range depth and then review this on a six- month or yearly basis. This helps us to ensure we refresh stock and that our shelves are filled with the best products.