HiQ Racing Ahead
Last July Tyres & Accessories attended the opening of the completely refurbished HiQ outlet in Nuthall road, Nottingham. The reason for our visit to the East Midlands, and what set this particular occasion apart from the numerous store openings that take place each year, is that the revamped Nottingham store was representative of things to come at HiQ. The Goodyear Dunlop group chain of retail fast fit outlets, as we reported in detail within our September 2007 article “What the HiQ “Revolution” Looks Like, was embarking of a programme of standardising its brand image and expanding its nationwide profile considerably. Six or seven months later, these plans are still in their early stages, but with some 30 outlets already refurbished, definite progress has taken place.
The number of HiQ outlets nationwide as of February 2008 stands at approximately 120. The three-year plan unveiled last year is to more than double this number by 2010. By the end of this year 30 more outlets are anticipated to join the HiQ family, seven in the first quarter; a positive start to the company’s growth plans – and the drive to attract new franchisees is really only beginning to get underway in earnest. As HiQ managing director Neil Burrows said at the time of the Nottingham outlet opening, more than 100 franchisees are anticipated to come on board over the course of three years. An initial geographical focus was the North West and the area ringed by the M25.
These new stores will follow the pattern set by the £600,000 Nottingham outlet refurbishment, says Neil Burrows. “The Nottingham centre is the first realisation of the new HiQ concept and it encapsulates everything we are aiming to do in the industry.” He adds that, while many outlets currently may not meet the high standards set by this particular premises, the company’s three-year plans will see all existing outlets redeveloped.
However for HiQ it is not simply a case of laying out the welcome mat then sitting back awaiting prospective franchisees to beat a path to its door. The company is proactively using a number of means to increase its profile – both with the motoring public but also, more specifically, with those within the industry that may not be aware of the franchising opportunities now becoming available. An important vehicle HiQ intends using to get its name out there in 2008 is the British Touring Car Championships. Goodyear Dunlop’s relationship with the series dates back a number of years and the Dunlop brand name held title sponsorship for the 2006 and 2007 seasons. During these years the benefits of the association with the BTCC were readily apparent, and the decision was taken to use the considerable exposure offered by the BTCC to Hi-Q’s advantage.
“We re-launched HiQ last summer with a rigorous plan through to 2010 to grow our network and to invest in brand awareness for HiQ,” comments Goodyear Dunlop corporate communications manager James Bailey. “We had already realised through our Dunlop sponsorship of the BTCC that this series provides fantastic exposure – it is the only championship outside of Formula One that is broadcast prime time on ITV.” Bailey adds that, as Dunlop retains its position as exclusive tyre supplier to the series, a switch to HiQ title sponsorship in actuality provides the best of both worlds – the simultaneous exposure of the company’s product and service brands. And as a means of getting the HiQ name out there, BTCC title sponsorship is hard to beat. The ITV coverage, says Bailey, attracts around two million viewers for each round – 20 million a season. Added to the 250,000 or so who attend the races, this is a sizable audience by any standard. The company’s brand exposure through the BTCC is, and will continue to be, supplemented by an increased level of advertising.
The main focus for HiQ in the next two to three years is, says Bailey, to continue the success achieved by the Nottingham store and the company’s first new look stores. “We have already noticed an increase in sales at outlets fitted out with the new HiQ brand identity,” he comments. And, as previously mentioned, plans are already firmly in place to ensure the number of stores conforming to the new HiQ look and feel continues to grow.
“Our second focus is to look at areas on the map where opportunities for franchising and extending our presence exist,” says the corporate communications manager, adding that the Norfolk region and the corridor between Manchester and Liverpool have been identified as key regions for growth. Hi-Q is actively seeking investment in these areas.
The company views Hi-Q’s fleet business as an existing area of strength, one that has greatly benefited from business brought in through the Goodyear Dunlop brand. During 2008 Hi-Q intends as a matter of priority to strengthen the retail side of operations and, through greater brand awareness, attract more retail customers. HiQ is aware that franchised dealers have raised their standards in recent times, and if they wish to remain a market leader HiQ needs to in turn raise its own standards even further. As James Bailey concludes: “Although market research shows a positive view of the Hi-Q brand, we believe that greater exposure through television advertising and motorsport, combined with an increasingly standardised brand image throughout the UK, will take public awareness of the Hi-Q brand to another level.”