Auto Service World
Feature   June 1, 2000   by CARS Magazine

PROFIT TOP-UP

Additives, lighting and vision products can add to the bottom line... if they're merchandised correctly


So you’re not a jobber and you don’t have retail space. There’s no reason a garage can’t top-up profits with add-on sales. You’ve already got them there for the big job, why not suggest some fuel additive or new wipers? It’s a quick sell with an excellent margin. Here’s how you do it.

No one’s going to argue that garages and service stations are destinations for car products. When people set out to buy new wiper blades, they’ll probably go to a retail chain or a jobber.

But there’s a wealth of impulse purchases just waiting to be made on the spot, at the garage. These low-ticket, high margin items can really add-up to significant profits over time, and they don’t require a lot of effort or space to promote.

There are a few general rules to keep in mind, then watch the numbers climb.

“Most garages don’t display them, but that’s the way to sell product,” says Wayne Westbrook, National Marketing Manager, Consumer Markets, Osram Sylvania. Westbrook admits that Osram’s new “Cool Blue” replacement halogens are typically something a customer goes looking for, not stumbles into.

But they’re nifty enough that a display in a high traffic area could generate impulse purchases.

Bulbs are something people generally don’t think about until they burn out. But an upgrade to a bulb that provides better night or bad weather vision can be a useful suggestion, especially in this aging population. If it’s something the customer can really use, there’s a sale in it.

In the case of the new blue halogens, the fashion appeal alone may generate an impulse buy–but it has to be seen.

Get the stuff out front. Says Westbrook, “If the consumer’s there paying his bill for a brake job, and there’s a little display of ‘Cool Blue’ sitting on the counter, the impulse purchase is what the garage is going to capture. The garage owner or mechanic cannot sell the product, it’s got to be the consumer who makes the impulse purchase.”

It’s a given that you’re pressed for space. Most small ticket items have displays that will fit anywhere, on a counter, on a shelf, on the floor.

Ask the supplier what kind of merchandiser you can get with the product and explain your needs.

Small ticket items are usually spac friendly, explains Cameron Young, National Sales and Marketing Manager, Bosch. “I can only speak for Bosch blades, but it’s a relatively easy item for an installer to carry.

We have merchandisers like a small display that would hold about 30 blades, or we can go up to 94 blades for an installer that has the room.”

Likewise, Osram’s ‘Cool Blue’ bulbs can come in a counter display, as can Hastings additives, which have a ‘variety pack’, counter merchandiser that attracts attention.

Why put something like additives up on the counter with the goodies? Brian Fox, Merchandising Manager, Hastings Inc., has an answer. “It is my opinion that garages could make a lot more money selling additives than they can selling candy bars and potato chips.

I would think they’d make more profit on a bottle of fuel injector cleaner, especially if they have a little bit of signage there explaining why you should use it.”

Try the ‘check and change’ approach. The majority of consumers who bring their car to a garage for repair would rather not bother with small jobs any more than large jobs. They know you can do it faster and easier, and they’d just as soon keep their hands clean.

“For wiper blades, it’s a relatively quick change as far as labour goes. From the consumer’s point of view, the installer can change the blades in a matter of five or ten minutes, maximum,” says Young.

“It should be natural any time a vehicle is brought in for repair that the installer does offer to change or check an item that potentially represents a sale and would benefit the customer. In this particular case, wiper blades may not be something everybody thinks about unless it’s pouring rain out, yet they can offer it as an upsell that may trigger an impulse buy.”

Heck, if you’ve just changed a fuel injector for someone at considerable cost to them, and relatively little margin to you, why not sell them some injector cleaner?

That five-buck dose of preventative medicine gives the customer the satisfaction that they won’t be back for that job prematurely.

They likely wouldn’t be anyway, turnover being what it is these days, so it won’t cost you any future business, either. But it will give them valuable peace of mind and better performance while you make a nice margin on the product.

Finally, provide information. Ask the customer how their wiper blades are working. If they’ve got a complaint, you have an opportunity for an add-on sale. Request and use any point of purchase material the supplier may have for you.

Get those stickers and banners up so customers are confronted with the product names both going in and leaving.

Most of these small ticket items are made by big ticket companies that have their name on commercials or race cars your customers have seen over the weekend. Capitalize on the advertising they are paying for.

“One of the problems that we all see is that very few and far between do gas pump people try to sell anything,” says Fox. But the old “check your oil?” line isn’t dead yet.

If your garage has a full-service gas bar, make sure your crew asks the question. People hate checking their oil in business suits, and they’re content to let your people do it and potentially use your product.

Checking the wiper blades and suggesting better headlamps is not perceived as hard-selling by customers who have built a relationship with their garage. These people are confident that any product recommended at their shop will be something that will really help.

Put another way, “Installers have to make sure the customer understands the value of what they’re purchasing,” says Westbrook.

Small ticket sales, whether it’s an installed item like wipers or bulbs, or an additive the driver can put in, are a win-win situation for proprietor and customer. Whether you sell them or let them sell themselves on countertops, extra sales can always help the bottom line.

3 KEYS TO ADD-ON SALES

1–DISPLAY

Additives, wipers and bulbs are just three examples of products that sell in a small space. Ask your supplier about compact merchandisers, then put them out front. Impulse purchase sales add up.

2–CHECK AND CHANGE

Offer to check, and change, defective wipers, etc. Most people are happy to have you add oil or change their blades. For them, it’s messy and inconvenient. For you, quick and profitable.

3–PROVIDE INFORMATION

Advertise. A simple sign that reads, “How’s your night vision?” grabs attention, and sells specialty halogen replacements. Signage and pamphlets do the talking for you. They also let those brand name advertising budgets do their job.


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