We want to achieve greater things, but not just by multiplying what we have done in the last 30 years,” explains Walker Movements owners Nick and Helen Walker.
The Nottinghamshire-based used-truck dealer, located right next to the M1, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year with a revamped image that includes a new logo, new website and some big plans for the 21-acre site.
“We are investing in the premises,” says Nick Walker, to create, along with other things, a new office building to help improve the environment for staff and customers. Further changes include the appointment of a new head of sales and marketing.
While the redevelopment of the physical site is still a little way off, a new website will be launched soon, complete with a more modern logo – a backlit version of which can now be seen prominently by the passing traffic on the M1. Walker Movements also says the new website will be something “different from the rest of the industry”, having been rebuilt for the customer, and will be especially mobile friendly.
“We would like to give the customer more information and to educate the customer to make an informed decision, even if they are not going to be buying with us. We don’t really have sales staff here, because the majority of our people our customers deal with are ex-mechanics,” Walker says. “Walker Movements is a large-choice seller with a constantly moving stock – and it is fast moving because we are competitive on price. Google, social media and review sites hold us more to account than ever before, which is why we want customers to be informed and happy about who they are dealing with and what they are buying. That’s why we give our customers the support we do, because a small problem here [the UK] can be a huge problem there [an export market],” he says.
Selling to customers from abroad is now the majority of Walker Movement’s business, but that wasn’t the intention when Walker sold his first truck – while still at college.
Having bought a truck (one of a batch of four similar trucks available in the sale) from Blackbushe auctions, Walker spotted the other three units for sale in Commercial Motor the following week at a healthy mark-up. After inspecting and prepping his truck, he decided to advertise it the following week, selling it almost immediately for just £100 less than the asking price and at a healthy profit. He returned to Blackbushe and bought another truck – and the rest, as they say, is history. Walker abandoned any ambitions of following his father into running trucks and instead decided to sell them from the yard, becoming something of a specialist in ERFs and Fodens.
“It was a bit of a niche market at the time and we specialised in those trucks for the first four or five years before we starting stocking all marques. But because of the experience in buying and selling [ERF and Foden trucks] and having a good supply of them, we found that we were then getting a lot of interest from African markets.”
Having outgrown the haulage yard, in 2001 the business was moved into a purpose-built site capable of housing a lot more stock. Now the home of sister company FleetEx, it wasn’t long before that too began filling up.
“I’d say that within two or three years we probably had 200 trucks in there,” remembers Walker. “It gets easier when you have a site, and it gives people more confidence.”
By 2007 it became apparent that not only was there a difference in the vehicles being bought and sold, there was also a lack of space on just the one site. FleetEx was created for the UK premium stock – it has since evolved to become the home for Euro-6 trucks – while Walker Movements deals with earlier economy and export trucks. The result is that the two differing sets of customers aren’t wading through vehicles that are irrelevant to their needs – “We don’t want to dilute their attention or make it harder to find what they need,” Walker explains.
Looking back at how the business was built and the differentiation that has led Walker Movements to become one of the largest used truck stockists in Europe, it is apparent that the success arose from Walker’s willingness to do things slightly differently.
Detailed spec sheets are still a mainstay of the Walker Movements fleet, and while the newly-renovated photography shed plays its own role in ensuring optimum photography all-year-round for the website, the ethos is no different from the early days when Walker would use a 35mm roll of film and the post office to get the message out about his trucks.
“I’d get a truck in and would probably take six [of the same] pictures, then another six of something else, until I had gone around the unit. Someone would call up, asking about it and if they weren’t sure I’d offer to send them some pictures in the post with a spec sheet. Sometimes you’d get them down to have a look, and sometimes you’d sell just from the photos, but that’s how I tried to get an advantage back then. We developed a reputation for being really straight with people, and we could maybe charge a little bit more because of reputation. It’s a lot harder now to get an incremental advantage, and a premium for reputation. Margins are tougher too, but we still try to make it as easy as possible for our suppliers and customers.”
Walker Movements now sells to more than 65 countries worldwide, and is particularly successful in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya, all of which link back to the
company’s early dealings in ERF and Foden, as the two British brands were seen as tough, durable trucks with fibre-glass cabs and reliable Cummins engines.
“We have had markets open up to us and close down again, but because we have such a large customer base we are quite resilient. We work with great people, have really loyal staff, and sell to countries and customers that are really interesting to deal with. We have invested in the people and now, this year and next, we will invest in the business. The trucks we sell speak for themselves, everything we buy is for our stock, and we would prefer to buy from leasing companies, main dealers, manufacturers and hauliers that we know – because at the end of the day we’ve got to be responsible for what we sell.”
The formula at Walker Movements doesn’t need fixing or even tweaking, but after 30 years there’s still a desire to continue to push to improve.
“We have great people working with us and we want to continue to invest in them,” Walker says. “The key ingredient all along has been that we sell reasonable trucks for reasonable prices and our long list of customers appreciate it. I also have to say thank you to our suppliers and customers over the last 30 years.”