Written on July 21, 2014 at 6:00 pm
Man on a mission
With a reputation for quality products and good old fashioned service, PMM speaks to Manbat to find out why these values remain as strong today as when the company was first founded over 60 years ago.
Originally named Manchester Batteries when Harry Pemberton started trading in 1952 from Turnpike Cottages in Abergele, North Wales, Manbat remained in the family until five years ago. During that period the company grew steadily, establishing itself as a business committed to providing its customers with top quality products that are supported by exceptional customer service.
In 2009 Roger Pemberton retired as Manbat’s Managing Director and Steve Sheppard took the helm, as the company started a new era under the ownership of the ECOBAT Technologies group.
The Pemberton family name, however, has certainly not been consigned to the past as Roger’s son, Myles, plays a prevalent part in the company’s day-to-day activities through his role as Marketing Manager, while his nephew, Mark Pemberton, is Manbat’s Purchasing Manager.
Subconsciously or not, the duo’s involvement in the business serves as a daily reminder of the principles that have helped elevate the company to its lofty status as the UK’s leading supplier of automotive batteries. Indeed, it is the tried and trusted ethos of offering ‘expert local service on a truly national basis’ that will continue to be at the heart of Manbat’s offering, however ambitious future growth plans might be.
In 2009 the world’s largest producer of lead and lead alloys – ECOBAT Technologies – recognised that it could significantly strengthen its own business model by acquiring a major player in the battery market. That its area of specialism (lead smelting) sits nicely alongside the need for, and use of, lead in the manufacturing of quality, modern-day batteries meant that Manbat was the ideal fit when it came to identifying an acquisition candidate in the UK.
As Myles explains, the synergy between the two companies has proved a natural fit: “They recognised from the outset that there is a fantastic opportunity in selling batteries and, in turn, their involvement has essentially allowed us to create a ‘closed-loop’ model.
“Basically they recycle used batteries – by breaking the batteries up and smelting the lead – and then they sell this back to the battery manufacturers (including those that supply our ranges), so the cycle is never-ending. This allows us to be very cost-efficient as well as environmentally friendly, because over 99% of the used battery is recycled.”
He continues: “The buy-out has also given us access to substantial funds, which means if we choose to expand, invest or develop then we can move very quickly to do so. The first evidence of this was in the purchase of our 3,000m2 distribution centre in Shrewsbury – the biggest battery warehousing facility in the country.”
“This provides us with the perfect base from which to serve our 12 UK-wide branches and means that factors and garages, particularly during unpredictable winter seasons, have no need to stockpile, as our fleet is so effective at quickly turning around product deliveries.
“The old Manbat model of customer service and quality was established long before our acquisition by ECOBAT and fortunately they’ve allowed us to continue running the business in a way that allows us to maintain that winning formula.”
THREE TIERS FOR NUMAX!
With a recently launched range of ‘refreshed’ Numax products for automotive applications, Manbat highlights the strategies that could mean ‘hip hip hooray’ for your battery sales growth.
In simple terms Manbat doesn’t manufacture any products itself, but instead sources high-quality components from trusted original equipment (OE) battery manufacturers. Over the years, it has established itself as the UK’s largest automotive battery distributor and the principle distribution partner for VARTA® – a brand that is OE on 85% of European vehicle manufacturers and is right at the forefront of Start-Stop technology and applications – as well as gaining the sole UK distributor rights for the iconic Lucas brand of batteries.
NUMAX, the company’s own-branded offering, has a strong reputation in the leisure battery sector where it is seen as the market leading premium brand, but, according to Myles, has required ‘modernising’ to meet the changing requirements of the IAM. The result is a brand new, three-product range, which supersedes the lone ‘Premium’ offering that was previously available.
He says: “The first thing we want to make clear is that all three models – Standard, Premium and Supreme – are manufactured to a very high level of quality. What the three-tiered structure of batteries does, however, is allow us to compete at a similar price level with the more spurious, poorly manufactured products that have unfortunately flooded the market in recent times.
“The top two ranges (Premium and Supreme) are both sourced from Johnson Control Inc (JCI) and feature the latest JCI battery technology, such as punched lead plates etc., whereas, the Standard is still sourced from an OE supplier but, due mainly to one or two aesthetic differences, allows us to offer an amazingly good quality battery that we can price sensibly so that garages have a solution for the more cost-conscious customer.
“In short, the new Numax automotive range delivers high quality, but is now priced at an entry level to provide buyers with an awful lot of battery for a very small outlay.”
TWO TOP WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR BATTERY SALES
1. Put it to the test
“Even to this day the number of independent garages that offer a battery test as part of their routine servicing procedures is in the minority, but there’s little to lose and so much to gain by doing so,” says Myles.
“If your customer is coming in for an MOT or even a brake replacement then pop open the bonnet and do a quick test during any downtime. A good tester will provide you with a comprehensive print-out reading to show your customer and it is something that you can do for FREE every time a vehicle enters the workshop.
“Even if the battery doesn’t need replacing, they’ll be delighted that you’ve told them their battery is in good health and it adds some extra value to the service you’re offering.”
2. Sow the ‘specialist’ seeds
“There is little doubt that with the changing technologies associated with batteries for electric, full hybrid and micro-hybrid vehicles – and the servicing challenges that come as a result – to be a battery ‘specialist’ is going to become a more prominent requirement in the aftermarket,” says Myles.
“Once you’ve established yourself as a battery specialist in your customer’s eyes, you can start to target other areas of their life – such as the sale of batteries for leisure and golfing applications. These offer great potential for bigger profit margins and consumers just don’t resent these purchases like they do with an automotive battery because they’re buying something that they see is actually going to benefit their leisure time.
He concludes: “A pro-active approach to training and investment, as well as partnering with pro-active suppliers and factors, is the best way to help you achieve ‘specialist’ status.”
ARE YOUR BATTERY PURCHASES PRICE-‘LEAD’?
Lead is an expensive material to buy, so a good rule of thumb to remember is that the higher the quality of battery, the more lead it is likely to utilise. If you’re offered a cheap battery and are unsure of the quality, always contact the supplier directly to get more details.