Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2000   by Andrew Ross

MARKET FEATURE: Wipers Working Harder for You

Windshield wiper sales work best when you employ a three-pronged approach: Products, Promotions, and Premiums.

The wiper market may seem to be simple in one respect–how hard can it be to knock water off a windscreen?–but the thought that goes into making a wiper effective and saleable is not to be scoffed at.

From a technology standpoint, engineering continues to be a high priority for wiper manufacturers. As simple as the function of a wiper is, continuing developments in car design require that the technical development of wiper blades and their support structure keep pace.

You need only look at the standard windshields of a decade ago–more or less flat, only slightly sloped–and compare it to the rounded, steeply raked designs driven by modern aerodynamic and styling trends to understand that change has taken place.

Nevertheless, the considerations of the consumer go beyond whether the blade will work–they assume it will work until proven otherwise. The consumer wants to know that it’s easy to install. In addition, since planning and wiper maintenance seldom go together, consumers will likely go to the first place they can think of when they realize their wiper has failed. They may go to the mass merchandiser, the service station on the way to work, or perhaps the attendant at the quick lube outlet that they happen to be visiting on a rainy day asks if their wipers are okay. Or it may be your store.

Accordingly, wiper manufacturers are very aware of the importance of getting their wipers in front of the consumer. If that means offering you an incentive to stock their brand, then so be it.

Bosch, for example, is offering a Micro Edge prepack featuring 40 assorted wiper blades. The selection is based on popularity in the marketplace. The assortment’s cost will be no more than the cost of the 40 purchased individually, of course, but it also offers a free Skil cordless electric screwdriver.

Bosch is also running its Spring promo during March and April, which provides jobbers with premiums as well as extra discounts and terms. It’s structured to reward volume, but the precise premiums had not been determined as of press time (in previous years Molson Indy and Vancouver Indy tickets were offered).

On the product side, Bosch is featuring the Micro Edge Excel with its new improvements, including the Universal Adapter.

Valeo is taking a somewhat different approach to attracting your business. While the company is not offering a specific program for wipers alone, it does have a program in place that rewards total purchases. For a purchase of $7,500 (U.S.) worth of Valeo product, a jobber can receive a free weekend travel package. According to the company, this is not being offered to its largest customers, as it is intended to build the company’s presence in the jobber market. The hotels and resorts are all four and five star locations and the accommodation packages are for three days and two nights. Typical packages include adult accommodation, up to three children staying free, a gift, a breakfast, golf, tickets to a local attraction, etc. Transportation to the resort is not included, but since there are more than two dozen in Canada and 120 across North America (including Hawaii and Mexico), there should be one within reasonably close proximity to virtually every jobber. The packages are valid for a full year and are fully transferable, too, which further expands the options.

On the wiper product side, Valeo is poised for the wide release of its Silencio product featuring the wear indicator.

Federal-Mogul, amidst its tumultuous year, has still managed to author a consumer promotion for its Anco brand. The AeroVantage rebate program will run from April 1 to May 31 and will offer consumers a $3 rebate for the purchase of one AeroVantage blade, $7.50 for the purchase of two. There is a limit of two total rebates per household (a maximum of two pairs). In addition, the company is offering the Kwik Connect technology on its winter blades. This means that the installation-speeding connector/adapter is now used across the full line.

Perhaps the only major players to have a clean slate going into the spring season are Stant’s Tridon and Trico brands. Recently amalgamated into what the company is referring to as “The Gates Group,” the Tridon and Trico brands are currently undergoing some corporate realignment and, as a result, no Spring promotions or product launches are planned. Those will have to wait until a bit later in the year. Naturally, the Trico Exact Fit line is still expected to figure strongly in the marketplace.

The current Trico/Tridon situation brings up an interesting point, however: Why do you have to rely solely on a manufacturer’s packaged promotion when there are ample opportunities to create your own?

Jobbers should recognize that they can be effective in doing this as well as in building the total sale of premium quality products. You may find it helpful to put together your own promotions for the wiper market, either in conjunction with the manufacturer or on your own.

Whatever route is taken, it should be carefully positioned to be virtually self-funding from the gross margin of the assortment or product. A general rule of thumb is to look at 5% of the total cost of the assortment, though the final decision may be dictated by competition.

Remember that Spring promotions will likely run into April or May, so if fishing is a big hobby among customers, look at opportunities connected with that. If it’s boat racing, perhaps there is a big event you can generate some hospitality around. Naturally, motorsports are a tried and true option. You may also want to tie in a wiper promotion as a run-up to May Car Care Month to capitalize on car owner awareness.

But whatever the details of your promotion, it should also be kept simple, achievable over a short period, and have a definite perceived value for the customer, whether that is ultimately the garage or the consumer.

The key to creating a real firecracker of a promotion is to be creative, target the interests of your customers and to recognize that you are not only competing against the other products out there but also the other premiums and promotions.

And you have to tell them about it. For the only way to make the most out of the wiper market is to continually remind yourself that it is up to the person behind the counter to remind the customer, because they don’t often think about it themselves.

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