Today I'm here to share a general business update with you. We have been very quiet in our presence the last six months while working away in the background, and for many reasons, as below. For some of our regular customers who are interested in all the details - I have a full run down and letter further down, but I also have bullet-pointed the key points below.
- Sam Gibbons, Managing Director & Detailer
Full Breakdown From Sam
A few words from me to all our loyal followers, customers and friends.
I don't think there are many small businesses in New Zealand that aren't being challenged to consider their business structure, especially those (like us) who import and rely on many factors beyond our direct control - such as international suppliers, freight companies and the like.
I started United Car Care in 2014 and it has been my baby ever since. Through covid and other big challenges, we always adapt and make changes - and do our best to satisfy our customer's needs. The last 6-12 months have been the hardest times I've had in United Car Care. With constant out-of-stock products and high customer demand, I have felt out of touch and unable to do the best for our customers - something I have had to get my head around and make a proper plan for. It has been personally overwhelming and hard to manage - and we're all human at the end of the day! I've seen some comments on Facebook Pages etc... about how people think we "don't care about our customers like we used to". That isn't true. It is with the constant challenges of business that we are here to adapt our approach and are here to stay!
As I have done in the past - I like to provide a high level of transparency when we are at a challenging point. Many regular customers know this is my tact. I have nothing to hide and am an open book for anyone curious enough to ask :)
United Car Care has always relied on stock importation. In the 'good old days' even our worst suppliers would only take three months or so to get in our hands. In the last 12 months, our core brands; Fireball and ValetPRO, have taken up to 6 months to receive from the point of order. It is unsustainable that we wait for that long to receive stock. We are a small business with a big footprint in the NZ market. Most people don't realise, but I (Sam) do all the admin and communication alongside running The Detailing Specialists full time - and we have a team of detailers here in Christchurch that help out in the retail shop. We are not a big corporate or a business with endless pockets or a multi-tiered team to keep things going - it is all coming down to a few of us doing our best. Like everyone else in NZ currently, we are going through personal cost increases and cost of living increases which put pressure on our income and added business cost increases. But there is a plan...1) The Stock Problem
The biggest 'problem' is that the stock time frame to receive imported stock is too long. 4-6 months go by and what we forecasted for 4-6 months back has changed, the stock has sold, expenses have been going out consistently and we face an uphill battle to try and keep our shelves (physically and online) stocked. There is a simple change to this in two parts; a) change of method from sea freight to air freight; and b) re-analysing our suppliers to tighten up where we can - while not changing our products much or declining our customer experience.
What this means for us is a much higher cost to bring in the stock, but being able to get it here in 4-6 weeks or so instead of 4-6 months. We will attempt to absorb this cost increase by shopping around our air freight options, and reducing our general cost of business too. We do not want to inflate our product pricing if we can avoid it; although I can't 100% guarantee that there may need to be price adjustments at this stage.
We have a few plans to reduce the general cost of business and keep our products from inflating. We will be retiring our Bonus Beads program as this costs us both high software fees and discounting stock which at the higher costs at the minute is not sustainable. We will also be trimming up our general website and online expenses, trimming the fat and removing underperforming products.2) Detailing Clinic Formats
Our detailing clinics have been so popular and we're super proud to have trained over 300 hobbyists in New Zealand over the years; and businesses. Our most recent format saw us travelling to Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin and our home base Christchurch to offer our clinics. As air travel has become more expensive in the last 12 months doing this is not not economic and viable.
Next week I will announce a new detailing clinic format at our purpose-fit premises here in Christchurch - and a new format for other national centres. I can't wait to get this live again and see you all in person!3) The Detailing Specialists & My Slow Communication
As mentioned above, I took over a detailing business late last year; Canterbury Auto Detailing - which we've now rebranded to The Detailing Specialists (check out our website here
). The Detailing Specialists provide a premium service here in Christchurch, which has had benefits and problems since we took over. Benefits are that we now have a purpose-fit workshop for detailing clinics, stock supply and retailing and a small team helping to build a bigger picture business that provides detailing, products and training. The problem in the short term is that my personal time has been stretched very thin - wearing WAY too many hats for one person. This is the one and only reason my communication on United Car Care has dropped back a lot - simply too many emails, phone calls and social media messages for one person to handle alongside operating the businesses side by side and being generally overwhelmed.
So how has this changed now? The team we have with The Detailing Specialists has been going from strength to strength and I'm able to not only pull back a bit from being all hands on deck, but they are also helping with United Car Care. Ongoing I have a far better ability to focus on United Car Care and share responsibilities with my team. A business is only as good as it's team - and when the team has been more or less just me; it hasn't been as good as it can be!
What now. I will be pushing hard to action all of the above changes ASAP and of course, keeping our customers in the loop with the changes too through more communication and updates. I will be working hard to get back to any missed emails, messages etc... but please do get in contact below - my own email and mobile are there too. I'm here to provide transparency and help our customers as best as possible! You can expect to see our website refreshed this week, Fireball pre-order live this week for stock landing in the next month or so and a few other changes on email to be made ASAP. Keep an eye on our newsletters and social media.Sam GibbonsManaging Directorsam@unitedcarcare.co.nz