Stapleton’s marks 75th anniversary

75 years after the company’s foundation, Stapleton’s, its suppliers and its partners are all celebrating three quarters of a century in business.

It’s hard to imagine what Sidney Stapleton would make of the company that bears his name 75 years on from the September day in 1937 when he first incorporated the firm and opened his premises at 195 High Street, Watford. By the end of the Second World War in 1945, the company had not only survived but expanded with the opening of a new depot in nearby Hitchin – a move that brought the weekly wage bill to a total of £20.

Sidney wasn’t alone in setting up shop as a tyre specialist in the late thirties – so what was it that gave him the edge on the competition? Ask company representatives what they think and they will tell you that then (as now), the business offered a standard of customer service that set Stapleton’s apart from the crowd – in this case in the shape of a convenient passageway to one side of the shop, which meant customers could actually pull off the road to have their tyres changed.

That might not sound like a major marketing initiative by 21st century standards, but at a time when his competitors simply set to work at the roadside, it made all the difference. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the company evolved along with the motor industry itself, matching innovation to innovation, initiative to initiative until by the close of the 1970s it was installed in a brand new headquarters with multiple fitting bays and large warehousing facilities standing on an impressive three quarters of an acre site in Watford, Herts.

Whilst Stapleton’s remains close to its roots geographically, the company is now a million miles away from its humble beginnings in virtually every other way. Seventy-five years on, nearly 1,000 people are employed and annual turnover is reported to be around £350 million.

Decades of wholesale development

Development at Stapleton’s continues at a rapid pace, something that exemplified by the progress attained in the five years since the company celebrated its 70th anniversary. Annual tyre sales are now reported to top 6 million units, an impressive 50 per cent increase on the 2007 figure of 4 million. According to the company, that’s largely the result of a programme of strategic growth, both organically and by acquisition.

“Every initiative we’ve taken in the last five years has been all about listening to our customers’ needs and tailoring our service to meet and exceed them and I’m pleased to say we’ve met with considerable success in less than ideal market conditions. In 2007 we had six warehouses holding a stock of half a million tyres – and today both figures have pretty much doubled, with a stock at any given time of some 1.1 million tyres at 14 warehouses the length and breadth of the country. Of course, that expansion would mean little to our customers without the distribution network keeping pace – and it certainly has. From a total of 175 vans five years ago, the delivery fleet has grown considerably to over 300 vehicles including 7.5 tonne lorries and 3.5 tonne vans,” said Stapleton’s head of general wholesale, Nigel O’Hara.

Some of that expansion was driven by demand, which threatened to outstrip the company’s capacity to supply. For example, the Warrington and Bristol warehouses have both been relocated to increase capacity, the former by almost three times and the latter, now at Avonmouth, more than quadrupled in capacity.

Notwithstanding the expansion of the Letchworth HQ, which now boasts three warehouses of its own, the opening of Birmingham and Guildford warehouses and the continued success of Wakefield, Stapleton’s has continued its pursuit of an ever broader range and more streamlined distribution operation.

All this was achieved by the beginning of 2011. And hard on the heels of its best year ever with an all-time record turnover came the announcement that Stapleton’s were to acquire the North East’s largest tyre and exhaust distributor, North Eastern Tyre and Exhaust (NETE), adding 150,000-tyre capacity – a measure designed to bring Stapleton’s coverage in that region up to the seamless levels of efficiency of the remainder of the nationwide operation.

The power of an exclusive brand strategy

An integral part of this expansion has been the steady stream of brands that Stapleton’s has added to its exclusive stable since the last quarter of 2006, when the company launched its own Prestivo marque.

While the five years since the 70th anniversary have pretty much coincided with the credit crunch and ensuing recession, that doesn’t mean Stapleton’s buoyancy has been affected. And, according to the company, this is in no small part due to a product-mix strategy that delivers products at every price level, thus ensuring that even when consumers are feeling the squeeze, Stapleton’s enables its retailers to offer excellent high quality alternatives in addition to all the premium brands such as Bridgestone, Continental, Dunlop, Goodyear, Michelin and Pirelli.

A little over seven years on from its launch, the exclusive brands blueprint has reportedly “fulfilled all expectations” and more, thanks to the careful selection of brands. The Korean manufactured Nexen is a said to be aStapleton’s vintage with “innovative tread technology, fuel-efficient, quiet performance, terrific braking power and all-weather stability” proving “hugely and consistently popular among dealers for two decades.”

Such has been the brand’s success in recent years that by 2010 demand was outstripping supply. The company has also opened one of the world’s largest and most advanced tyre factories with an on-going investment of some 1.2 trillion won.

Lee Hyun-Bong, CEO and vice chairman of Nexen Tire Corporation voiced his thanks:  “Nexen Tyre Corporation would like to congratulate Stapleton’s Tyre Services Ltd. on your 75th Anniversary. We would like to extend our best wishes for the past achievements and for continued success and prosperity in the future. We greatly appreciate your cooperation and support for the past 20 years and are confident of even greater success in partnership with Stapleton’s Tyre Service Ltd.”

Primewell, is another firm favourite for its blend of affordability and breadth of a product portfolio covering more than 85 per cent of the UK market for passenger car tyres with 89 product lines in sizes ranging from 13 to 22 inches and over 90 per cent of the van tyres market with a 19-size range from 14 to 16 inches.  Primewell is produced by GiTi Tire, one of the global top 10 tyre producers by both volume and revenue.

Giti Tire UK Ltd also offered congratulations to Stapleton’s: “Giti Tire…identified Stapleton’s as the ideal Partner in the UK to distribute and promote Primewell PCR back in 2010. Since then Stapleton’s have worked closely alongside the team at Giti Tire UK Ltd and have done a first class job in raising the awareness of a first class product. We work very closely with Stapleton’s in developing the range for the UK market and as such are excited about the near future with several new product launches in the coming year,” Richard Lyons, managing director – Europe, GiTi Tire Company Ltd

As part of Continental, Matador not only boasts pedigree but also trumps Stapleton’s 75-year history with its own 80 years of tyre knowhow and innovation. The Matador name has been in existence in its own right for longer still – the company began in 1905 as a manufacturer of rubber hoses and belts before commencing tyre manufacture in 1925 and growing to become the former Czechoslovakia’s leading tyre producer.

Exclusively available through Stapleton’s since 2009, Matador’s extraordinarily broad range of car, van and 4X4 tyres have made a mark with Stapleton’s retail customers thanks to their reputation for affordable quality, the brand’s commitment to minimizing its environmental impact – and to the fact that its products consistently perform well in comparative tyre tests and are often noted for their wet weather performance.

“As a quality brand exclusively available through Stapleton’s since 2009, Matador is now a highly successful product offering and over these three years we have built very strong working relationships between Stapleton’s, and all areas of the Continental Tyre Group Ltd, including the main manufacturing plant and the brand management team. That has helped us develop the accuracy of forecasting and to continually improve the delivery processes help to ensure the best possible product planning and range development opportunities. With aspirations to grow the brand further, 2013 looks set to be another positive year for the Matador brand,” Peter Griss, general sales manager – National Accounts, Matador.

Joining the Stapleton’s stable just a year ago, Maxxis has already proved the power of the strategy of identifying and co-operating with brands the company believes add value. “Maxxis would like to take this opportunity to send warm congratulations and a sincere message of appreciation to Stapleton’s, in this their 75th year of trading. After a hugely successful first year in partnership with the UK’s number one distributor, we feel both Stapleton’s and Maxxis are strategically aligned and look forward to many years ahead of providing retailers a fantastic quality product with a service to match. With recent tough market conditions we are acutely aware that the already strong relationship held between Stapleton’s and Maxxis has been a key factor in the success of the brand,” said Derek McMartin, managing director, Maxxis UK.

Launched in 2006, Stapleton’s reports that the Prestivo private brand was quickly and enthusiastically received as a quality mid-range offering that covered most of the PCR market with 29 tyres sizes in the Prestivo 3000 pattern and 21 in the Sport 8000 range.

In sales terms, the brand exceeded its targets but even more importantly was the innovative Prestivo Partners Scheme that  carved out the shape of future private brand marketing initiatives by offering what Stapleton’s describes as an “unprecedented level of support to retailers.” This support is said to have made a tangible difference to the bottom line of retail customers in the form of total exclusivity, attractive rebates, branded clothing and in-store support including posters, POS materials and other branded merchandise.

According to the company, “Prestivo didn’t so much break the mould, as make it: its success reaffirming the power of the private brands strategy and the efficacy of throwing the full weight of Stapleton’s support behind the individual tyre retailer.”

Wholesale general manager, Nigel O’Hara explained more: “We select these house brands with the greatest of care – indeed in the past we’ve been unafraid to drop a brand when it failed to meet our standards or to get an unreservedly enthusiastic reception from our retailers. After all, if we don’t have complete faith in a product, we can’t wholeheartedly support it – and, since we see the Key Dealer Programme associated with each of these brands as central to our relationship with our retailers, 100 per cent commitment is vital. In essence these brands, backed by our promotional support and the confidence that comes from total exclusivity, are what gives our retailers the edge – and that’s doubly crucial right now when the market’s about as tough as it gets.”

As well as its private and exclusive brand strategy, as you can imagine a leading wholesaler like Stapleton’s also values it relationships with leading manufacturers too, with tributes from Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear Dunlop, Michelin and Pirelli:

“All of us at Bridgestone UK would like to congratulate Stapleton’s on their 75th anniversary and wish them many more years of continued success,” Brett Emerson, sales director, Bridgestone UK Ltd.

“Continental Tyre Group Ltd and Stapleton’s have had a close working relationship for many years, seeing steady growth which is expected to continue into 2013…offering retail customers the latest products in a timely fashion,” Phil Scanlan, sales director UK and Ireland, Continental Tyre Group Ltd.

“Goodyear Dunlop would like to congratulate Stapleton’s on 75 years of successful business. As a supplier to Stapleton’s, we enjoy working collaboratively to deliver top quality tyres to the industry. As businesses, we both want to ensure that the right tyre is delivered to the right customer at the right time and by working closely together for a number of years we are able to offer the best possible service and solution for our valued customers,” Juergen Titz, director Consumer Tyres, Goodyear Dunlop Tyres UK Ltd.

“We would like to congratulate Stapleton’s on 75 years of trading and the significant achievements they have made during this period. As Michelin is a premium tyre manufacturer, it is essential that we have strong relationships with distribution partners that mirror this with premium levels of service and who become part of our distribution ‘go to market’ strategy…” Malcolm Scovell, Michelin commercial director UK and ROI.

“As a Premium Tyre manufacturer Pirelli is keen to work with customers who have the same quality of approach to business and customer service, and Stapleton’s have proved over the years that they tick all the boxes.  We look forward to continuing our productive partnership for many more years to come.“ Dominic Sandivasci, managing director, Pirelli Tyres Ltd

“As is evident from their kind words, like our retailer partnerships, these relationships with manufacturers are two-way, it’s much more than supplier and buyer,” Peter Allen, commercial director at Stapleton’s commented.

STS ProfitLink – evolution through innovation 

Although a relatively recent development in the long history of Stapleton’s, STS ProfitLink it is difficult to overstate the importance of this part of the company’s business even though this would have been difficult to imagine as recently as the company’s 60th anniversary. As one of the first tyre distributors anywhere to fully embrace the possibilities of the Internet as a customer service tool, Stapleton’s pioneered online selling with the launch of STS ProfitLink online ordering system at the turn of the millennium – a time when a NTDA Tyre Wholesalers Group survey showed an alarmingly low level of e-commerce.

Nevertheless the innovative system was taken on board by retailers with an alacrity that exceeded all expectations – and 2011’s renewed investment in a radical overhaul has reportedly met with even more success. STS ProfitLink now includes a tyre-labelling facility, easy-to-navigate drop down menus, live stock and up to date pricing information along with the facility to manage accounts in real time. As a result STS ProfitLink is designed to help retailers develop more astute buying strategies and secure the best possible offering for their customers.

“On the occasion of our 75th anniversary, it’s good to take a break from always looking forward, as is our habit. And looking back over these 75 years, it’s hard not to wonder what Sidney Stapleton would make of the company that still bears his name with pride and a good deal of respect. I’d like to think that he would be as proud as I am of its unbroken track record of success, of the pioneering zeal behind our stable of exclusive brands, the commitment to innovation that developed STS ProfitLink, the tyre industry’s first e-commerce system – and of the vast national team of people who are still inspired by the innovative spirit he invested in Stapleton’s from the very beginning in 1937.

“True to Sidney’s determination back then, we’ve continued to grow and we are resolved to continue growing and to keep developing new ways to deliver even better service to our customers. Of course our success to date – and in the coming years – isn’t achieved by our efforts alone.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our strategic partners – the premium manufacturers and the exclusive house brands; our retail customers large and small – all of whom have embraced our ‘working for the customer’ philosophy and made it theirs too by developing and working with us in mutually beneficial and profitable partnerships. Finally, I’d like to thank the whole Stapleton’s team for the relentless hard work, enthusiasm and professionalism that ensures Stapleton’s is more than worthy of its founder’s name,” Stapleton’s (Tyre Services) Ltd managing director Yutaka Kimbara concluded.

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