Diesel Storage Tanks fuel Summer Sales Success for Harlequin!
14th July 2008
Leading storage tank manufacturer Harlequin, has reported record sales this Summer across the company’s range of market leading range of Fuel Station Bunded Diesel Storage and Dispensing Tanks.
Despite historically high energy prices and the impact of the ‘credit crunch’, Fuel Station sales have continued to defy even the company’s most optimisitic expectations, with unit sales gains in excess of 150% on some of the company’s most established and popular models.
Harlequin’s Marketing Manager John Switzer says, “In the six years we’ve been manufacturing Fuel Stations, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Spring and Summer is always a busy time for Fuel Station sales, especially into the agricultural sector, but this year’s sales are defying even the most ambitious targets.
The company attributes its success to a number of factors, as John explains, “Firstly, a more buoyant agricultural sector obviously helps and secondly, The Water Environment (Oil Storage) (Scotland) Regulations 2006,The Control of Pollution (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003and The Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001, continue to drive the market forward, as older installations are upgraded or replaced.
“At Harlequin, we’re also fortunate in having a knowledgeable and solution focused reseller base, who actively sell our products, together with the performance advantages they offer end users. In the internet age, we find end users are more informed than ever before about the products they are buying. Consequently, their expectations are much higher than they were, even a few years ago.
“That said, it is still obviously important to offer a value for money product. However, in our experience, end users are increasingly looking beyond the sticker price and considering the features and benefits of the product. And that is where the Fuel Station range scores. Unlike some other superficially comparable products, Harlequin Fuel Stations are a purpose designed diesel storage solution, not a heating oil tank with a pump clipped on the top and a different shaped lid, or a cabinet bolted on the side. The market has long moved on from being driven solely by price. Performance, specification and ease of use are today more important considerations, than simply being able to buy a poorly specified product at a rock bottom price.
“The arrival of Euro IV and Euro V generation, common rail diesel engines has also caused end users to become more demanding in terms of specification, whilst historically high fuel prices have also made tank owners more aware of the need to control their fuel.
“At larger sites where many different users may have access to a tank, the digital flow meter fitted to larger Harlequin Fuel Stations is definitely a selling point – being up to 5 times more accurate than some mechanical flow meters. And unsurprisingly, we’ve also seen an increase in demand for fuel management systems, which allow tank owners to restrict access by electronic key or PIN to authorised personnel only – as well as allowing them to monitor via their desktop PC how much fuel is being used and by whom. Only a few years back, the cost of a fuel management system would have proven prohibitive at all but the largest installations. But with DERV now over £1.30 a litre across the UK, ‘Can we afford not to control our fuel?’ is the question many companies are asking?”
Another change John has observed is a move toward larger capacity tanks. Whereas in previous years, sales of smaller capacity Fuel Stations exceeded those of larger Fuel Stations, over recent months there has been a surge in demand for larger models.
“Right now, every 5,000 litre Fuel Station is sold weeks before it has even been made, to the point whereby we have temporarily been forced to increase delivery times from 10 days to 28 days. In response to the increase in demand, we’ve recruitedand trained additional labour, added additional shifts and allocated overtime to the Fuel Station assembly line. We would expect that following this injection of resources, we should be back at 10 working day lead times, within the next four to six weeks. Whilst it is great to be busy, as a business we do place a very strong emphasis upon service and delivery quality. We are therefore committed to minimising the time between order placement and delivery direct to the end users’ premises and the addition of new resources to our manufacturing operations will assist in achieving that.”
So is the demand for larger capacity models indicative of people stocking up on Diesel ahead of expectations of further price increases?
Not necessarily is the answer from John. “There are clearly a number of factors at play. From experience it is not so much about beating rising fuel costs, as much as ensuring security of supply. Fuel protests and drivers’ strikes earlier in the year certainly concentrated minds within the logistics sector. We spoke to one operator who operates distribution bases across the UK and in mainland Europe, who readily admitted that in the absence of strategic fuel reserves, without access to forecourt diesel their operations would come to a halt within 3 days. A week later and they’d be bankrupt. Such statistics tend to concentrate minds.
“Then of course there’s the price of fuel itself. 5,000 litres of DERV at today’s prices can cost upwards of £6,500. In that context, the cost of the tank is much less of an issue than the cost of the fuel stored inside it. If a more expensive tank provides important performance benefits such as ease of use, greater forward storage capacity, or is better configured... many people will happily pay the premium.”
John concludes, “The days of Diesel storage tanks simply being a commodity product are long gone. Indeed in the space of less than ten years, the sight of the once ubiquitous single skin tank sitting on top of a pile of breeze blocks with a gravity fed nozzle precariously suspended on the end of it, has thankfully been consigned to history.
“Today, end users are much more likely not simply to know what they need, but rather what they want. And they expect a fuel storage solution which delivers exactly that. As a product manufacturer, our success and indeed the success of everyone within the industry, is dependent upon being able to identify those needs and supplying a solution that satisfies them. That can require a high degree of product personalisation and is a marked change from even a few years back, when in some sectors, limited success could be achieved by simply producing a standardised product, shipping it in bulk and flogging it at the lowest possible price. Customer expectations have not only moved on, but have moved upward. In the future, the only certainty is that those expectations will be higher still.”
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Article Last Updated 14th July 2008