Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2006   by Dennis Mellersh

Market Report: Lighting products, chemicals and additives; wiper blades

One of the biggest pluses that service providers/installers have working for them is aftermarket customers generally trust their installer. Customers trust both the service provider's products and ser...


One of the biggest pluses that service providers/installers have working for them is aftermarket customers generally trust their installer. Customers trust both the service provider’s products and services and their recommendations.

This element of trust can play a big role when promoting the sale of products such as wiper blades, chemicals, antifreeze/coolant, additives and lighting products.

Sales success in these product categories depends on a number of factors, including product knowledge, effective promotional and sales techniques, and good displays and merchandising techniques in the service reception area. For all of these factors, taking advantage of sales tools and other assistance offered by suppliers can improve the sales success rate.

Wiper blades offer upsell opportunities

Wiper blades, whether from companies such as Gates, Robert Bosch, or Valeo can represent an excellent replacement and upsell opportunity for the service provider. Major blade manufacturers offer a range of quality grades and increasingly what we might call ultra-premium lines, making upgrade replacements easier and more profitable.

And the differences in these quality grades are not cosmetic – each of the quality categories from the majors represents genuine technical, material and design advancements. In this regard, consumer education can be one of the most important keys to wiper blade sales growth in the automotive aftermarket.

According to various industry reports, one of the key factors impeding the greater sale of wiper blades is consumer worry about the difficulty of installing them or the possibility of installing them incorrectly. Service providers therefore have an advantage as low-cost or free installation can be offered with the sales of the blades, thus adding an incentive for the customer to purchase.

The wiper blade distribution chain offers plenty of solid support from suppliers to help the service provider increase sales.

Edward Di Cesare, of Robert Bosch Inc. in Mississauga, Ont., for example, says that his company currently has an attractive banner program running, the Bosch Auto Parts Specialist (BAPS). It features a box top redemption program. “When the service provider installs a Bosch product, they tear off the bar code from the box and each of these will mean a 50 cents to $1 credit on an incentive purchase program which includes items such as television sets and barbecues,” Di Cesare told SSGM.

“We have had excellent reaction to this program and it now has 2,400 members. We are also creating additional incentives with some products having double the credit, such as $2 instead of $1, and also including triple points for specified wiper blade products. We have various sales support tools including product brochures and 40- and 120-blade merchandisers in the form of a rolling stand or a wall mounted unit as well as application guides,” Di Cesare says.

“In terms of new products, this spring we are coming out with our new Icon all season blade. This is an all-season, bracket-less, ultra premium blade with greater profit margins and is an excellent upsell opportunity. Generally speaking better technology and better quality result in better margins,” Di Cesare says.

At Gates Canada in Brantford, Ont., this markets the Trico and Tridon brands, Sandy Wallace, marketing communications manager, notes that wiper blade sales tend to be seasonal, largely spring and fall.

Trico, in fact, has an interesting idea that service providers can use and that is to suggest that customers inspect and possibly change blades when the clocks change over to and then out of daylight saving time. Industry experts feel that blades should be checked and changed if needed about every six months, and this technique would be a good way to accomplish that.

Wallace told SSGM that Gates supports its brands at the installer level with a wide array of sales materials and services including extensive electronic and paper catalogues, merchandisers, banners, sell sheets and other promotional devices such as signage. The full colour product sheets and brochures provide a wealth of educational information on the company’s wiper blades.

One of the interesting sales promotional items Wallace drew attention too is a simple dangler or mirror hanger that the service provider can put on the inside mirror which describes six wiper blade problems which can result in unsafe driving conditions. At the top of the dangler the copy notes: “We have inspected your wipers today.” Under that there are boxes to be check-marked for replacement recommended immediately; replacement recommended soon; and wipers in satisfactory condition.

Lighting market growing but changing

Service providers selling and installing lighting products are operating in an overall growth market according to the market research and consulting organization Frost & Sullivan. In a recent research overview, the company commented, “The total market trend for the North American lighting aftermarket is positive. Forward and rear exterior lighting, which account for the most revenues, will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.1 per cent through 2011. Revenues for replacement bulbs will increase by 3.6 per cent annually. Growth in the interior lighting and auxiliary lighting will be in the one-two per cent range.”

Frost and Sullivan also adds, however, that the market is changing in terms of products, noting that “Automotive systems seem to be evolving away from incandescent and halogen bulbs to LEDs and HID (high intensity discharge) lighting … LEDs are now found increasingly in tail lights, turn signals, and in interior applications like dome lights and dashboard lights … LEDs and HID bulbs have a much longer service life than traditional lighting sources…”

In this market environment one of the approaches to accelerate sales at the installer level is to consider promoting lighting products that do not depend on the normal replacement cycle. Specialty lighting products can be a good sales booster considering the growing consumer trend to individualization of vehicles. Some of the “opportunity” lighting products you might want to add to your services could include:

* Projector headlights* Altezza taillights

* Foglights* Underbody neon

* HID conversion kits* Washer LED lights

* Strobe lights* LED license bolts

There are also upgrade opportunities in the normal replacement cycle, and here, lighting company catalogues, whether hard copy or online, and websites can be good sales tools to learn about features and benefits of these products. On its Web site, for example, Osram Sylvania, offers a wide variety of halogen lights, including Standard, Long Life, Cool Blue High Performance, SilverStar High Performance Halogen, and includes details about the features and benefits of each. The company also has a Lamp Replacement Guide on its Web site in which you can find the right lights for a customer’s vehicle by simply typing in the model name and the year of the vehicle and following the subsequent instructions.

General Electric’s Web site includes product sell sheets, available as downloadable PDFs such as for GE’s Nighthawk bulbs, which GE says combine the power of GE’s High Output and Super Blue lights. The GE Web site also features a literature library with catalogues, product brochures, new product releases and white papers describing lighting technology. GE also notes that it offers a “comprehensive line of merchandising tools” including signs, racks and product holders.

Additives and chemicals offer extra sales opportunities

There is a wide array of additives and chemicals that service providers can sell and install from companies such as Old World Industries, Tunap, Rechochem, Valvoline, Honeywell’s Prestone products, and the Rislone line from NLS Products.

In the case of additives and chemicals, including antifreeze/coolant, the best sales approach is to stock and promote well-known brands and companies and to concentrate on the most popular items within those brands. One study has shown, for example that complete fuel systems cleaners represent close 40 per cent of additive dollar sales, with fuel injector cleaning additives products being around one third of dollar sales. Antifreeze and windshield wash are “among the highest growing subcategories in automotive with antifreeze showing a 25 per cent increase in dollar sales and windshield wash a 15 per cent increase, according to McLane Merchandising Concepts.

In terms of display and merchandising, here are some points you might want to think about implementing:

* With additives and chemicals it is important to display like products together by category, rather than by displaying according to brand

* Customers are not well informed on these products, so take advantage of suppliers product literature and display it prominently

* To draw attention to chemicals and additives and to further educate customers use suppliers shelf-talkers, merchandisers, products sheets and brochures, banners and other point of sale material

* Have seasonal checklists pertaining to additives and chemicals reminding customers of their features and benefits. Display these at the service desk and also give them out with invoices

* Increase consumer education input on these products by having your own signs describing features and benefits of the major chemicals and additives products that you stock.

Overall, utilize the extensive support offered to service providers by chemical and additive suppliers. An example of this is Recochem, which offers merchandising tips and provides 24-hour technical assistance and which also has “a complete line of sales aids, from product information sheets, brochures and full color automotive sells sheets to high-resolution colour photographs of our products on CD.”

Aging vehicles mean more opportunity. As noted by Valvoline, the fact that people are keeping their vehicles longer and thus driving up the median age of vehicles on the road means that more and more vehicles could be facing problems associated with higher mileage engines.

How to increase your wiper blade sales

Source: Adapted from Trico suggestions

Focus on wipers as a safety items. Clear vision means safer driving.

Create a vision center to display wiper blades, washer fluid, lighting products, ice scrapers and related chemicals.

Stock lots of wiper blade product. Coverage equals sales!

Offer to install wipers. This service can close a sale.

Take an extra minute to clean and aim the wiper nozzles.

Don’t forget to inspect the third wiper blade now on many vehicles.

Include wiper blades as part of spring and fall check-up promotions.

Antifreeze/coolant facts your customers may not know

Cooling system failure is the #1 cause of engine-related breakdowns.

Cooling systems must be flushed and refilled with new antifreeze/coolant periodically, not just “topped-off.”

Many vehicles now require a specific brand and formulation of antifreeze/coolant.

Numerous vehicles have specific timetables for cooling system maintenance.

Having 150,000-mile antifreeze in the radiator does not mean you can simply forget about cooling system maintenance.

Aftermarket Sources

Wiper blades

www.gates.com

www.tricoproducts.com

www.bosch.com

www.valeo.com

Lighting

www.gelighting.com

www.sylvania.com

www.hella.com

Additives and chemicals

www.valvoline.ca

www.nlsproducts.ca

www.honeywell.com

www.recochem.com

www.oldworldind.com

www.peakantifreeze.com

www.tunap.ca


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