Demand in the lubricant and fluid field is quite important today with new vehicles and specs coming into the market. Autosphere asked our jobbers if they had seen any impact on sales of lubricants and fluids with the rising inflation and consumer spending tightening.
John Boudreau of Part Stop remarked that yes, they had. “Our walk-in customers are watching prices more than in previous years which I would say has our accounts also looking for the best pricing on fluids. Sales likely are up still but there is a noticeable rise in people checking pricing before purchasing!”
Carquest’s Alex Parker stated, “The lubrication market has gotten a lot tougher with all the different grades and cost of oil rising. There is a lot more work going into selling lubrication. We are stocking multiple grades of 5w30. One example: there is traditional 5w30 syn or 5w30 diesel syn and we will need to make sure customers are getting the right specs, not just the right grade for their vehicle.”
And Rob Hollinger, Ideal Supply remarked that they have seen a decreased demand for lubricants, maybe in conjunction with the rising inflation, and people travelling to/from work less. The pandemic showed that in some industries people could be effectively working from home and now this is becoming more widely expected/ allowed. Therefore, by doing so people are putting fewer miles on work vehicles.
Autosphere: Given the greater cost of synthetic lubricants and more specialized oils required, how has that impacted business from a supply and distribution standpoint?
Rob stated, “Given these two changes in the oil industry, it has obviously forced us to allocate more financial sources to the inventory that we keep. Again, we need to carry more SKUs to cover the increased specialty markets not to mention the fact that all oils have increased significantly in cost. What seems a little contradictory is that the cost of oils has gone through the roof in the last two years due to increased raw material costs (or so we are told)! But so has the profitability of the oil companies with a couple showing “record profits” in 2022.
And Alex said: The counter staff in the store are constantly looking for new oils that are available for use to meet the OEM manufacturer specs making sure we have them in stock. Even with them trying to keep ahead of the industry changes, we are still running into the odd oil spec that is not available to use at this time, especially in the transmission section.
John added that at their location the impact has not been substantial. If the customer needs the product, they will purchase it. The newer vehicles are requiring certain oil specs, so the customers understand and service them. Some lubricants are hard to source.
Autosphere: What are the current ratios you are seeing in terms of synthetics, semi-synthetic, and mineral oils?
John said that their ratios likely would be close to 60% mineral versus 40% synthetic if they include hydraulic fluids. They have also eliminated all semi-synthetic fluids from their store lines. Rob tells us, “We might be a little different than most markets because of where we are located but we have focused on growing synthetics for a couple of years now… so I’d say we’re about 60% conventional, 30% full synthetic and 10% semi or blends.
Autosphere: Are there any challenges/changes you’ve had to make when stocking lubricants, so they are readily available to your customers?
Rob mentioned, “The challenge we face is that we need to stock more SKUs in more sizes. In the old days you could carry a couple of different grades of oil and now at any given point with conventional, semi-synthetic, full synthetic not to mention different grades of hydraulic fluids, we likely keep 10-20 times the SKUs that we used to.”
Alex tells us that coolant is another item that has seen a lot of change in the industry in the last few years. The days of the regular green coolant are gone and there are multiple specs of coolant that are available, including specialty coolant for hybrid vehicles. Counter staff are spending more time learning how to read the specs of coolants and oils to confirm they are selling the right specs to customers.
John adds that they have added newer viscosities in the last couple of years (OW16, etc.) and adjusted their order points as required with the sales rising. Again, he says, other than some fluids being hard to source, the rest has been available as ordered. He adds that the only other noticeable fluid-related issues have been greases which have been difficult to supply for a couple of years (backorders take some time to fill!).
It seems that there have been quite a few changes in the oils/fluids sector, but Canadian Jobbers are doing their very best to supply their customers with what they need.