The molded heater hose, also known as small internal diameter (i.d.) hose or molded coolant hose, represents a largely untapped opportunity for jobbers. It may be a market whose time has come. Here are some tips to help you analyze whether it’s right for you and how to make it work if you decide that it is.
1) Analyze the opportunity and understand the market. There are more than 600 part numbers in total, but much fewer than this are needed for good coverage. Talk to your supplier rep about this market and the barriers you might need to overcome.
2) Educate the installer and your staff. The key barriers to effective selling in this market are twofold. Right now, many installers go to dealers, thinking they are the sole source. Secondly, cataloging of these parts isn’t always as clear as it might be, meaning that counterpeople may be missing the related-parts opportunity.
3) Discourage garage customers from trying to cobble together small interior diameter hoses as a “low-cost” alternative. Many of the molded hoses have bends that keep them away from hot or sharp surfaces. Trying to route a flexible but straight hose in place of an application-specific design is asking for trouble. Remind garages about the time factor–their labor hours are valuable–and the chance of a comeback if something goes wrong. Also, some hoses have different inside diameters at each end, leading to obvious connection problems for the uninitiated.
4) When molding your molded heater hose inventory, parts proliferation is a familiar foe, but not an unbeatable one. Depending on your regional vehicle makeup, 40 part numbers can deliver 60% coverage. As many as 90 part numbers are required for 85% coverage. About 140 are required to get this to 90% coverage. The good news is that as few as 16 numbers may be required for a starting inventory.
5) Local vehicle popularity can vary and so can inventory profile, but a starting inventory investment may be as little as $250, with 60% on-hand coverage possible with an investment probably no greater than $360, or truly outstanding coverage, at 85%, for around $700.
6) A starting space investment for inventory may require as little as three linear feet of space–wall racking is the preferred method–though there may be some longer hoses that may require some depth. It is probably a good idea to find a relatively high-profile location to act as a continual reminder, to staff and walk-in trade.
7) Use your inventory as a point of differentiation. As few as 25% of jobbers may be currently doing a solid job in this market, meaning that those that do can stand out for their service level. It also means that the chance of hyper-competitive price slashing competition is extremely unlikely.
8) Don’t just stock it, sell it. As mentioned, many garages have become accustomed to buying these intricately arranged hoses through the original equipment service channel. You’re going to have to make them aware of your ability to serve this market to turn this around. Regularly feature these items in your communications with them. Focus on the “Call us first, not the dealer” message. Key your pricing appropriately. You may be able to offer good pricing to your customers and make a solid margin.
9) Make sure your counterpeople are aware of the availability of these products and give them the resources to sell them. Judging by some catalogs, this parts column may have gone virtually unnoticed. Also, some descriptions are a bit, well, cryptic, so if you decide that you’re going to enter this market, ask your supplier rep if they have any guides that highlight these parts and provide diagrams.
10) Be patient. It may take a month, season, a year, or maybe two before your trade customers get into the habit of calling you and not the car dealer for this category of parts. Don’t expect the first promotion to provide the kind of lasting results you need. Keep plugging away at it using a combination of reminders and promotions and you will succeed.