Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2004   by Auto Service World

Teamwork Talking Points: Chemicals and Additives

Few categories of products offered by even the most traditional of auto parts stores are as dependent on strong retail skills as chemicals and additives.

This applies whether it is purely in-store sales you are after, or you are looking to assist your service provider customers with over-the-counter sales.

There are a great many categories of product in general, but movement has been particularly good in areas related to emissions testing.

In the face of expanding emissions testing, particularly in Ontario, jobbers and their counterpeople would do well to tune up their merchandising skills as they apply to emissions-related chemicals and fuel system cleaning.

While the AirCare program has been operating in B.C.’s Lower Mainland area (which encompasses Vancouver,) for many years now, many Ontario drivers are still learning about emissions testing. In either case, and even in areas not under the grip of mandatory inspections, consumers have responded to the category.

In truth, the experience of jobbers in areas where emissions programs are in place varies widely, though a great deal of these experiences can be traced to the implementation of proper merchandising and sales techniques.

In general, there are two categories of fuel system chemicals. Those directed at the DIY market are generally gas tank additives. Products aimed at the professional are often a combination of additives and a fuel rail or gas line hookup.

Both can be effective, but the motivation to buy can be somewhat different. The DIYer is looking for insurance that his car will pass an emissions test, or may be trying to solve a rough running problem without a visit to the local garage.

For the service provider, the motivation is the ability to add a service item to his customer offering that can offer value and profit. In this way, the price of the product is less of a factor than the profit the shop can earn for the service.

This is in stark contrast to chemical products that may be used in the course of other service–such as brake cleaner for example–where the chemical product is viewed as a pure cost.

Counterpeople and managers–who may both be involved in the pricing of products–should consider these various factors when adding new products to their chemical offering.

Whether considering the DIYer or the professional technician, effective in-store merchandising should not be forgotten. Technicians are consumers too and they respond to many of the same principles of merchandising, even though they are definitely among the more learned of consumers.

It is also important to provide some degree of outside exposure, whether that be through flyers, newspaper advertising, or store signage visible from the street.

Jobbers have also found that performing a little bit of research about the products they sell can be helpful in having a credible discussion with a walk-in customer. If you have done some testing yourself, and can say that it has helped, it will go a long way to convincing the customer.

There are just too many tests out there that prove these chemical products do provide some benefits, though they can’t fix serious problems. If you, as a counterperson, are not well-versed in this product category, you can always refer to the packaging, which often has good information, or product brochures.

These products do provide some relief, some degree of insurance, and some peace of mind, and that is likely what your customers are looking for. Just don’t make them look too hard.


When it comes to chemical products, you will likely run into three basic types of customers: those who are looking for additive products such as fuel system cleaners because they believe they work; those who know of these products but don’t believe they work; and those customers who do not even know these products exist.

There are some accepted rules about setting up displays that can give you the best opportunity for impulse purchases.

An effective display strategy can address all three types of consumers by:

Putting the products where they are easily found and seen.

Using signage that provides customers with the right information.

Putting the products within easy view of the counter to facilitate face-to-face selling.

Keeping in mind that a showroom should also be clean and the aisles clear of clutter, prime locations for chemical products are on endcaps, floor merchandisers, and counter displays. Signage should be clear and any literature should be kept in stock and on display.

Since space on endcaps is limited, it is advisable to feature only certain products; emissions reducing products would be a prime candidate for jobbers in regions with an I/M program. In winter, de-icers for locks and windshields are other strong candidates.

This placement should be in addition to the full chemical display, which should also feature these products. You may want to have products located in as many as three places within the showroom: the full chemical display, an endcap, and a merchandiser or counter display.

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