Pointing in the right direction

With more garages signing up with Point S each year, the tyre network is changing and also looking to help its members adapt

Published:  01 December, 2022

Point S has become a familiar name since it first landed in the UK in 2011. The global network began in France, and has spread out across the world. While its initial focus was on tyre fitters, it has widened its remit and increasingly draws in more garages each year.
Explaining something of the history, Point S UK’s Network Operations Manager Wayne Daniel said: “Point S was started in 1971 as an association of French tyre dealers looking to pull together their purchasing power. The network has developed since its inception, and now covers other service items like batteries, wiper blades, and bulbs. We are on four continents and in 48 countries to defend the independence of our members and our network and support their profitability around the world.
“We have 2,950 members running 7,500 depots. Point S Auto Care Network was established in the UK in 2011, 40 years after France. So, last year, while France celebrated its 50th anniversary, we celebrated our tenth, and we have come a long way in those 10 years. We currently have 177 members with 288 depots across the country. We're fast approaching the 300 that we're looking for. We have the Business Development Managers on the road, working with the members to push as much of the portfolio products or the offers that they have to the members to make sure they got the right deal with the right quality. They are also actively out there looking for people to join, but they'll only be looking in areas where we don't have anybody.”
Considering its origins as a tyre-focused business, you won’t be surprised to learn that tyres remain absolutely central to the offering. Point S members have access to a wide range of tyre brands, including, among others, premium brands such as Bridgestone, Continental, Pirelli, Michelin and Goodyear. Members are also able to offer customers the Point S own-brand tyre. “That's manufactured by one of the premium manufacturers under license,” said Wayne.

With this sort of network, while the signage is the same, each business is independent, so the key is to get all the members going in the same direction: “Harmonisation is one of the fundamentally important parts of getting our plan out in the marketplace,” Wayne observed. This can be tricky when some sites are running as a single outlet, and others are part of a group: “For example, we have one member in Maidstone that has one site and then have others that have four sites in Birmingham. We have some that have got 10 sites.
On how they find working with this kind of spread, Wayne commented: “From our point of view, some at the smaller end of the scale needed more help than the bigger ones, but we work with them all.” How long a business has been going has an impact as well: “We have within our network that have been going over 40 years now, so they're well-established.”
Addressing the ongoing shift in the nature of the membership has been one of the main themes of Wayne’s tenure so far, and this does not look like it will change any time soon: “One of the fundamental things that has changed is that a lot of our members aren’t just doing tyres anymore. They are diversifying their businesses towards the mechanical side.
“A lot of our members now do servicing, MOTs and brakes. This means it's really important for our business model that we offered our members parts, consumables and batteries. It was also really important that we associated our members with the premium side of parts.”

It is ironic that tyre sites are moving towards the traditional garage market, because a lot of traditional garages are moving into tyres. In short, everybody is becoming someone else. According to Wayne, it’s part of a changing world: “When my father was driving, he would have gone to a tyre dealer to get his tyres, then he would have gone to a garage to get his car serviced.
“Today, if you want to keep a customer, you have to offer everything. You don't want to give the consumer the opportunity to go somewhere else. It does make you laugh because garages make a good margin in what they do, and they've gone into the tyre side, which is probably not as profitable as they thought it was going to be.  Meanwhile, tyre businesses have gone into the mechanical side and they're seeing how profitable this market can be.”
He continued: “Back in 2017, most new members were tyre outlets. Now, 50% of businesses joining our organisation now will be garages. However, the garages that we're talking to already do tyres, so they're not completely green. Maybe they need a bit of direction with what they're buying. We help with marketing to customers. We do a digital platform for them, so they can sell tyres online. We can do local advertising with them too and we give them training on the tyres.
“The key when selling tyres if you are a garage is being able to upsell to a good tyre for maybe for a customer who's just got no tread and needs tyres but don't really know anything about tyres. That's where the Point S tyre comes in. It's a mid-range product that's competitively priced.”

For a garage looking to join a network, you will be looking for that name recognition. If you are a traditional workshop, will Point S be the right fit for you? “Point S in France would be equivalent to how the general public perceive Kwik Fit in the UK. They are decades ahead of us.”
How do you push this forward in the UK then? The changing face of the car parc could provide an answer: “Nobody knows really what's going to happen with dealer networks. Look at what Elon Musk has done in this sector; Lorries that just dropped their sides in town centres and sales points with no workshop attached. Electric vehicle manufacturers may need a network to service their vehicles. It's really, really important that we recognise what's good for today, but also where our members need to be in the next three or four years. A lot of the members that we are bringing on now are coming from the mechanical side because they feel that they need to be part of something. Point S is very much playing a major part in supporting the independent sector and keeping them ahead of the game where we're going.
“It's our ambition to be the largest qualified certified European network for electric vehicle maintenance by 2026. It will enable our independents to take their businesses to the next level and future-proof their businesses.”
That’s not all though: “It's our aspiration over the coming years to have our own training centre in the UK, covering all aspects as well as EVs. My job is to look 12-18 months ahead and further, to see what’s next coming. The training school concept plays a large part in what I've been doing over the last six months because it's a large part of what our business is going to be moving forward.”
Wayne concluded: “We're working towards tomorrow, building with the members so they can have a sustainable business for the future. It's a 50/50 partnership, one that works.”

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