A unique success – Thompsons internet eParts system heads to a £2m turnover

Latest News | 7th Mar

“If we could give customers a Parts service that was easier to use, faster on delivery and offered greater value for money, why would we not do it?”

says Simon Shields, Joint Managing Director of Thompsons, the UK’s leading tipper bodybuilder.

That was the logic behind Thompsons’ creation of its internet – based eParts system, introduced to the UK eight years ago and still unique in today’s tipper bodybuilding industry. From those early days of mainly selling ‘basic’ tipper – related items such as ram seals and replacement mudflaps, Thompsons eParts now has some 6,000 readily available line items, not just for tippers but for skiploaders and hooklifts as well.

With sales now approaching £2m a year, eParts has more than rewarded the faith and investment placed in it at the outset.

Managing the whole operation is Aftermarket Services Manager Dave Lees, who came to Thompsons with considerable in-depth experience of the automotive Parts aftermarket. Dave is based at at Thompsons’ Site 3 in Blackburn, from where the whole eParts operation is run.

Dave comments:

“What was exciting was to do something completely innovative and different. Why? Because in today’s business environment operators just can’t afford to have a truck standing still for want of a replacement part. Equally, many people don’t have the time to sort through parts manuals to find what they are looking for and then send a man in a van to drive 20 miles to pick something up. What they DO want though is a replacement part delivered to them overnight that can then go on the truck first thing in the morning, thereby accruing only the very minimum vehicle downtime.

Obviously, there is a huge market for tipper parts out there – after all, these are vehicles that get used particularly hard – but the real issue was approaching that market in the right way. Even in 2014, it wasn’t too difficult to see that had to be via the internet.”

Dave also makes the key point that Thompsons eParts is not just for Thompsons customers running Thompsons tippers. He added:

“eParts is not just about looking after our own, but offering a service to the whole tipper industry. Many tipper – related parts apply to all makes and models of vehicles, so our appeal in the industry is almost universal. As we have grown, we are now able to include parts for skiploaders and hookloaders as well, which is an important bonus for the increasing number of operators running multiple types of vehicles.”

eParts passed its £1m turnover level in 2017, and looks to double that in 2022. To handle this ever-growing business, a new warehouse extension adding 60% floorspace has recently been built in Blackburn, this being supported by a new £50k computerised parts picking facility, a new Customer Record Management system and a brand new eParts website (already the system’s third evolution) coming online just last month.

Of particular interest, this new website is interactive, so if you want something like a replacement rear under-run bar all you have too do is tap on the relevant part of the vehicle image on the screen and the website will give you all the options and prices for that item.

One key issue about replacement parts is whether they are genuine OE examples or something else entirely. As Dave explains:

“the parts we offer, particularly where they relate to the truck itself, are genuine original equipment as fitted to the vehicle when it was new. Maintaining genuine OE parts gives customers the guarantee of optimal performance and a full warranty. This way, eParts always offers top quality parts that provide long term value for money.

As a separate business in its own right, Thompsons eParts is now an approved distributor for many individual makes of equipment, these covering all the main product areas. Particularly notable is that Thompsons is now the biggest supplier of Palfinger cranes on new tippers in Europe, so there’s an obvious requirement for eParts to carry a wide range of aftermarket Palfinger crane parts to support that. Looking at simpler items such as ram seals, eParts stocks everything from Edbro, HARSH, Binotto and Hyva. These are all core products, universal in the industry, where the make of the tipper body the ram works with is irrelevant.

The point is though that everyone knows that they can get their parts from us. This builds awareness, confidence and trust in Thompsons overall.

These are just highlight examples of what eParts now offers, but we are always looking to expand our distributorship function for any further relevant products.”

With overnight deliveries done by the likes of DHL, APC and TNT, any product of any size can be with a mainland UK operator within 24hrs, whole sheeting systems and Kinshofer clamshell buckets included. Whilst these are the big items, the full range eParts covers everything from vehicle cameras and lighting, pumps and ptos, toolboxes, and a huge range of H&S equipment – right down to PPE workwear and vehicle warning labels. In short, Thompsons eParts is pretty much guaranteed to have anything your truck might ever need.

But whilst the whole system is internet based, eParts is still a people business too. Two new recruits to the truck industry, Declan Fish and Stephen Pugh, have recently joined the company to help run stock control and ensure all the daily orders are dispatched on time. This has enabled Shaun Thomson, who’s been Dave Lees’ right hand man from the start, to spend extra time focusing on the skiploader and hookloader markets whilst also linking into Thompsons ServiceTech as well.

Dave Lees concludes:

“Yes, we’ve done very well out of the COVID lockdowns, with eParts’ internet shopping facility proving absolutely vital to many customers. But it’s also worth noting that footfall to our physical Parts desk here in Blackburn has now ramped up quite considerably as well. We’re always here to talk to when customers want a direct contact, and it’s having that level of continuing accessibility that helps build long term relationships.

There’s no doubt whatsoever that eParts has had a significant impact on further strengthening the Thompsons brand in the marketplace.”

Above: Shaun Thomson


Above: Simon Shields


Above: The e-Parts Team