This year Capricorn celebrates 20 years of supporting the automotive industry in New Zealand.
Established in Perth, Australia in 1974, the 17,000-plus member-based organisation operates as a cooperative, offering trade credit facilities for automotive workshops and smash repairers, providing access to almost 2,000 preferred suppliers.
Capricorn head of sales in New Zealand, Andrew Baird, says it makes sense for businesses to join Capricorn.
“Capricorn members have just one account dealing with a variety of preferred suppliers. Trade credit is applied for and set up for them, making it easier to run and grow their business. Instead of having many invoices to pay at the end of each month they just have one invoice from Capricorn to pay and that’s it. We then pay the preferred suppliers.”
Capricorn deals with a variety of different suppliers in the automotive industry, including general parts, workshop equipment, commercial and business essentials.
“We encourage our members to use their Capricorn trade account for their purchases using our network of preferred suppliers. We cover a broad range of products and services and look to add to our supplier base where we believe there’s a gap in the supply chain.”
Baird says suppliers are charged a service fee, which provides part of the income to operate and to provide a wide range of services to members and preferred suppliers.
When a supplier joins Capricorn, they guarantee that no member will be disadvantaged on price.
“In other words, members won’t get a better price from our preferred suppliers outside of Capricorn.”
Baird says the strongest reason for becoming a Capricorn member is the simplicity of having just one account to deal with every month, minimising paperwork.
“And the second reason is having a wide variety of preferred suppliers. We also have a loyalty programme, one of the most rewarding in Australasia. For every $1 a member spends using their Capricorn trade account, we give them one and a half reward points. To put it into context, 100 reward points is worth $1.”
Members can redeem their reward points in a number of different ways – for vouchers to use at Bunnings, Farmers or Harvey Norman, for travel, or to pay their trade account.
“Everybody who is a Capricorn member is actually a shareholder as well. It’s a member cooperative, so there are no joining fees, but members must buy $200 of shares when they join. Those shares have a dollar value, and if they decide to leave Capricorn, we will buy the shares back off them for the same amount and refund any reward points they have owing as well.”
Baird says while Capricorn provides a number of benefits for any business, it’s invaluable for new businesses.
“The difficulty a new business has is opening a credit account with a number of suppliers. You have to go through the process of filling out a credit application and getting credit references. If you do that with Capricorn, you only have to do it once, and once you are a member you have access to a variety of suppliers. You can effectively start doing business with them straight away, without any hold ups, and with less paperwork.”
In addition to the trade credit facility, Capricorn offers finance facilities from three months to five years for members to buy capital equipment.
“We offer a three-month facility which is interest-free, and anything above three months we charge a fixed charge per annum over the term. The types of things we finance are vehicle hoists, tyre changing equipment, welding equipment – we even finance motor vehicles for members. Anything that would be used in a workshop to generate profits, we finance.”
Members can also protect their business with Capricorn Risk Services, which arranges protection on buildings, equipment and vehicles for members through Capricorn Mutual Limited, as well as brokered insurance products for other assets.
“We’re one of a few organisations that offers access to protection and insurance specifically for this industry.”
Capricorn has also recently introduced two new products to assist its members in the day-to-day running of their businesses – free access to service and technical data, and the ability to share technical knowledge with their own customers through videos.
They also invite members to a range of networking events, including an annual gala dinner and tradeshow, member trade nights, training and knowledge evenings, and an annual trip to SEMA.
“We also have a biennial overseas convention. Last year the convention was held in San Diego in the US and next year the convention will be held in Salou in Spain. This event is already sold out, with more than 550 members from Australia and New Zealand attending.”
Baird says their members are loyal, and the first member who signed with Capricorn in New Zealand is still a member today.
Plans for Capricorn’s 20th anniversary are underway and Baird says it is likely some original members will be involved in the celebrations.