Auto Service World
Feature   November 1, 2014   by Steve Pawlett

Chemicals and Additives: How To Capitalize On Sales This Winter


With memories of the long­est, coldest winter in four decades still fresh in our minds and weather forecasters predicting a return of the Polar Vortex, it’s a good time to go through your c­hemicals and additives displays and assess what needs to be restocked, removed, or added. Given the wide selection of products in this category, store displays can easily get out of control and become difficult to navigate for customers.
Take a hard look at your retail display and ask yourself whether your display stands out from others that you have seen. Are you utilizing point-of-sale (POS) materials provided by your suppliers? Are counter staff conversant on all products on your shelves? Do you have adequate stock on the latest offerings from all your key suppliers? Are there any new hires that could use some training in this category?
For instance, while most remedy products are self-explanatory, when it comes to describing some of the finer features and benefits of the various coolants now on the market, it can get quite complex and could confuse the customer. You should be prepared for questions on popular products like diesel fuel conditioner, starting fluid, throttle body cleaners, air flow sensor cleaners, and so on. And as the temperature begins to drop, expect more questions related to cooling system service.
Try to avoid getting too technical when describing the products on your shelves; instead focus on the features and benefits of the products to your customers. Keep it simple, and you have a better likelihood of making the sale.
Whether you’re dealing with a technician, a walk-in, or a DIYer, you need to know what you’re talking about. Most manufacturers take the time to inform their suppliers about their products. Many hold “lunch and learn” sessions at the jobber’s store. These usually run an hour or so and focus on a handful of items, so the sales staff can walk away better equipped to educate their customers. Many manufacturers also offer periodic incentive programs to aid counter staff in boosting seasonal sales of certain items. Be sure your staff are up to date on the latest programs.
For example, an airflow sensor cleaner can be sold to service stations by indicating to the technicians that this is an upsell item. Installers can offer this to their customers as an added service to an oil change, since airflow sensors have a large impact on fuel economy and horsepower. Now that vehicles are coming in for service less often due to extended oil change intervals, it’s prudent for the technician to bundle services that can improve the vehicle’s performance and fuel efficiency. Don’t pass up on opportunities to sell products that are naturally tied to a service, like selling brake cleaners when a customer gets a brake job.
With online sales gaining a strong foothold (see our cover feature), be sure your website is up to date on your latest product offerings. The rapidly expanding e-tailing market is estimated to be worth $11 billion this year, and is expected to grow to $50 billion by 2020.
According to the third annual Jobber News Shop Survey, 41.3% of respondents said they order up to 25% of their parts online, and a surprising 25.4% claim they are ordering 76-100% of their parts online now. This was closely followed by 21.7% ordering 51-75% of their parts online. If your store has not put much focus on this aspect of the business, management may want to re-visit their approach to online sales, improve on the usability of their website, and update its latest product offerings. Most manufacturers now provide extensive product information online, in addition to pamphlets and point-of-sale materials that jobbers can use. Chemicals and additives are often impulse sales items for walk-ins, so maintaining an attractive display can capitalize on this.
By keeping your display clean, organized, well-stocked, and attractively priced, you can ensure a steady sales volume. Counter staff should be comfortable making presentations on all of the products on your shelves to walk-in customers.
Keep in mind, as we head into winter, to purchase more antifreeze coolant, lock de-icer, windshield washer fluids, wiper blades, and snow scrapers, and be sure your headlight bulb display is fully stocked. At the same time, wind down inventories of summer products like washes and waxes. When the Polar Vortex makes its first appearance this season you can be sure many vehicle owners will not be prepared, so the more prepared you are the greater your sales will be.
While profits on these products may be thin, don’t underestimate their importance for generating repeat business. The quantity of products on display is not as important as the quality of the selection. Having a thorough knowledge of these offerings means each customer who walks in the door is an opportunity to make another sale.
For instance, when it comes to coolants, engine oils, and brake components, technicians are generally your best customers and they are looking for performance and price. The chemical cleaning market, particularly brake cleaning products, has become highly competitive in the last few years as more offshore brands have entered the market. In many instances, installers are finding that the cheapest product on the shelf is not always best, when they find themselves going through case after case, week after week. Be sure to let your customers know that the brand-name brake cleaners and degreasers you carry may cost a little more, but they will do a better job, require less product, and save the installer money in the long run.
Merchandising in the chemicals and additives market can be challenging, but in terms of the overall market, the research experts say that sales are good and getting better. Figuring out how to get your slice of that growing pie is the challenge. As vehicles age (the automotive sweet spot is in the six- to 12-year-old vehicle range now), there is going to be a greater need for fuel additives, engine flushes and new coolant to help maintain performance.
In fact, according to the research, some 43% of respondents said they had used some kind of DIY additive, and that number is only likely to go up as the Canadian car park ages. Unfortunately, where matters get a little more difficult to understand is on the merchandising side of the coin. How are consumers making their additives decisions?
According to the research, the answer is old-fashioned and very low-tech. Brand recognition and comfort level with a particular brand are the consistent leaders in terms of in-store decision-making, but word of mouth is also seeing some significant increases.
The typical chemical and additives display in any auto parts store can appear overwhelming, given the myriad of brands and products on the market. The key is to understand your market and home in on a select group of products you know will move well.


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