Auto Service World
Feature   June 1, 2001   by Auto Service World

MARKET FEATURE: 10 Tips for Building Exhaust Sales and Profits


Vehicle population factors as well as longer-lived OE systems have hit the exhaust market hard. It has all combined to produce a market that is showing virtually no growth in absolute terms, but jobbers should not confuse lack of growth with lack of profitability.

For those jobbers who have made the commitment, it continues to be consistently ranked as a leading category.

1) INCREASE INVENTORY

No matter how much inventory you have, you’re probably still under the gun for lost sales. Structural changes in the industry of late have made this even more critical.

2) FINE-TUNE YOUR INVENTORY

Probably the only thing worse than not having inventory is having the wrong inventory. The mix of vehicles your customers are servicing can change quite rapidly. The fact is that whether you’re winning business from your competitors, or losing customers, your inventory mix should be shifting to accommodate the changes.

If you haven’t reviewed your inventory mix

in the past year, you’re probably overdue.

3) KEEP ON TOP OF OFFERINGS

With the rise of so many multi-line, multi-brand companies, it can be hard to keep track of what is available. Your old domestic-only standby can probably offer you everything from performance products to direct fit import items today. On the other hand, your trusted import supplier may have more for the domestic market than you thought. Not to be outdone, some of the short line exhaust suppliers aren’t as short line as they used to be.

Know what they have to offer and make your decisions

accordingly.

4) KEEP YOUR CUSTOMERS INFORMED

As difficult as it is to keep yourself aware of expanding offerings, it is doubly so for your installer customer, who has less frequent contact with manufacturers. Make sure your customers are reminded repeatedly about what you have to offer. Do not assume that just because you sent out a flyer a few months ago, they remember what it said.

5) OFFER NICHE PRODUCTS

Niche products are more than just performance and accessory items. They may be a preferred import brand–European or Asian–and can be a healthy addition to your product mix. Products that are slightly outside the mainstream tend to be less price-sensitive, and can provide you with an effective way to differentiate yourself in your market.

6) OFFER DIFFERENTIATING OPTIONS

As in any market, there are options in brands, quality and pricing. Virtually every jobber out there is doing this to some extent. The key is, whenever possible, to offer a different set of alternatives than the other jobbers in your area.

7) BUY SMART, NOT JUST CHEAP

There is more to the exhaust market than just pipes and mufflers. Clamps, hangers and other items can be had from different suppliers, sometimes at a very attractive price. If you can get what you need at an attractive price, go for it, but don’t forget that price is one thing, availability is another, and the cost of acquisition is another thing still. Security of supply is worth dollars in the bank for you.

8) USE BANNER PROGRAMS

The use of banner programs specific to the exhaust market is a good way for even the fiercely independent installer to take advantage of manufacturers’ marketing dollars. Help installers understand the commitment behind these programs, and do what you can to make sure they use them for more than just a price break.

9) PERFORMANCE PARTS, PERFORMANCE PROFITS

The growth in performance exhaust products has been nothing short of phenomenal over the past decade, particularly in the import segment. Virtually every exhaust supplier has some performance products in their lineup, plus there are numerous dedicated performance specialists. Promote these products in your store and distribute information to your installer customers. Every exhaust sale is a potential performance upgrade.

10) BUILD A REPUTATION FOR COMMITMENT

To do well in the exhaust market, you need to make a commitment; inventory dollars and space are two things that this market requires. Communicate with your customers your new or continuing commitment to this market. That, combined with strong coverage, will make you known as a reliable exhaust supplier who is the installer’s first call.