A changing aftermarket, with increased freedom for independent garages has proved beneficial for Euro Car Parts.
The company reported a £118 million turnover for 2007, claiming to be the largest parts supplier to the independent aftermarket.
It predicts a £150 million turnover this year.
Recent changes at the firm are as dramatic as the redevelopment of the stadium visible from its headquarters in Wembley.
Since the iconic twin towers saw their last football match in 1999, ECP’s turn-over has more than tripled, it now covers 90% of the UK population, sells garage equipment and parts for all makes and has joined the Europe-wide buying group ATR.
There are no signs of this expansion slowing.
Turnover this year is expected to show a 27% increase, and five new branches are under construction.
It has its sights set on nationwide coverage within six years and distribution centres are planned for major areas, each with targets of six daily deliveries to customers within a 35-mile radius.
The majority of its growth has come since expanding from its original Mercedes-Benz and BMW specialist business to full all-makes part supply between 2000 and 2004.
The network has grown to meet demand, with new stores added either when a suitable management team is available or through acquisition, including 10 ARE group sites in 2006.
As the business has grown, several of its branches have outgrown their original facilities and expanded with extra mezzanine floors or through buying extra space from neighbouring buildings.
As a result, ECP gained 41,000 sq ft of storage space in 2007 through redevelopment of smaller branches, plus an additional 23,500 sq ft at its headquarters in Wembley.
This 149,500sq ft site houses all of ECP’s administrative departments, including cataloguing teams, purchasing and a central call centre which can source specialist parts from across Europe when required.
Its main function is a central warehouse, working constantly to supply ECP’s 60 branches, including those in Scotland and Ireland, with parts by the following morning at the latest.
The warehouse is organised into fast and slow moving lines to improve picking speeds.
There are 100 vehicle-on-road deliveries a day.
A smaller version of the same system is operated by the branches to supply garages.
Most branches operate vans and bikes, with the latter delivering small parts within 30 minutes.
This allows garages to begin jobs while waiting for the bigger parts of the order via vans. The scale of the operation is such that ECP made 3.75 million deliveries in 2007.
But the company is keep to retain its personal approach, and its 1,800 employees and customers are encouraged to meet management face to face.
Its strong market position has allowed it to help the independent garages through the Right to Repair Campaign.
As well as leveraging cheaper parts prices, which will be further aided by ATR membership, it established Euro Garage Solutions last September providing a full supply, installation and training service for garage equipment straight from the factory, cutting customer costs.
Chris Barella, sales director, says: “We’ve got to support these garages. Customers are financing the machine through ECP, and if they meet the target for parts sales they effectively get it for free.”
More recently, the company has introduced a repair service for electronic control units and air flow meters, giving independent garages access to a 48-hour turnaround for these high-value parts and a slice of a market usually controlled by franchised dealers.
Managing director Sukhpal Singh is planning more innovative ways to monitor and streamline the delivery process, including radio frequency identification when the costs are more attractive.
This will allow the company to watch stock via GPS and give accurate delivery arrival times.
“We’re waiting for the prices to come down to 10p each before we use them more widely,” says Singh.
For ECP, the future is set to bring expansion and innovation aimed at continuing its strong position.
A more widespread distribution network, underpinned by a lean system which competes with manufacturers, and expansion into new lines and workshop equipment will help bring further growth both for the company and its customers.