Clarke Oil - Business case study

Clarke Oil maintains stable position during lockdown and remains on track to steady growth

Clarke Oil

Redditch based Clarke Oil is a family owned business founded by Paul and Emily Clarke in 2007. They specialise in the sale of high quality oil and grease products for customers in the following sectors; agriculture, plant and food, automotive, highway, commercial and industrial. Clarke Oil has expanded into larger premises, and now employs 10 staff members. The company is a key distributor for two major lubricant manufacturers, Exol Lubricants and Fuchs Lubricants.

Clarke Oil is familiar with the Worcestershire business support landscape, previously receiving a grant to extend and develop its office and warehouse, and support to install more efficient lighting and heating units. At the start of 2020, the company was accepted onto the Elevate programme, which offers successful SMEs support to encourage and enable further growth (this work was temporarily paused until September as a consequence of coronavirus). The Elevate team referred Clarke Oil on the Business Energy Efficiency Programme (BEEP), which receives funding from the European Regional Development Fund, to help the company realise environmental improvements. This resulted in a £5,700 grant towards a new electric forklift truck, replacing the firm’s current diesel model realising annual fuel savings of £2,000 and 12 tonnes of reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

During coronavirus the business has been able to trade at fairly normal levels and remained afloat without requiring emergency business support. “As oil distributors we are classified as a utility oriented activity, meaning the Government encouraged us to remain open throughout lockdown.” Emily Clarke, Company Director

Buildings

Caster Oil staff

“Our team is small and working environments are safe. Those that could work from home did, and we only used the Government Job retention scheme to furlough the small number of staff who were unable to work at all.”  Emily Clarke, Company Director

Coronavirus has caused customer demand to fluctuate, with trade dropping from industrial clients as factories reduced capacity or closed, and in travel related sectors affected by the pandemic such as coach operators. That being said, Emily describes how surges in trade from agricultural and haulage sectors balanced out losses in other areas. “The agricultural industry has kept us really busy over the last few months, farming saw a  huge rise in demand for domestically produced food and the dramatically improved weather conditions enabled work to commence .” Customer demand also increased from clients in commercial and haulage sectors, as home deliveries across the UK surged.

The lockdown has not disrupted Clarke Oil’s growth or marketing plans either. Staff have had time to clean and organise data systems and focus on new business development activities. “We have reached out to over 1000 past, present and potential future customers with emails and phone calls, checking they were safe and well and confirming our current services and products” said Emily. The company is also re-branding with a new logo and website, all of which Emily hopes will reinforce Clarke Oil’s place in the market.

“We are aware of the pressures that some of our customers may now be facing, so raising our profile, supporting our client base whilst pursuing new opportunities is now the onward goal.” Emily Clarke, Company Director

Staff were all using their time wisely to refresh and reposition the business. “We’ve had time to reflect and will continue to pursue steady growth plans whilst remaining competitive and resilient.” Emily concluded that she is looking forward to re-joining the Elevate programme. “The benefits from links with Worcestershire County Council are not just in the grants but the networks built, and the knowledge gained from other local employers. It is excellent!”.

Clean Growth, Business Energy Efficiency Programme, European Regional Development Fund

Information on the County Council's business support

Business Energy Efficiency Programme

Support for Businesses