Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2002   by Auto Service World

University of the Aftermarket: Merchandising Winter Products

Winter, it would seem, comes earlier and earlier, at least for those who are inclined to go after the retail market. It seems that winter starts almost before Thanksgiving, which means that you should be ready to merchandise some of your high profile display locations to take advantage of these seasonal opportunities.

Key seasonal products include visibility products such as lighting and windshield wipers, as well as cold weather musts like batteries, block heaters, lock deicers, windshield antifreeze, etc.

While some of these products can be adequately displayed in a bulk, pallet style display, others may require a bit more finesse.

This is not to say that bulk displays are ineffective. For impulse items such as windshield antifreeze, displaying them by the skid load is a time-proven method of building volume. Since you have probably ordered it by the truckload, it also takes little time to set up.

There are three things to consider though:

Place the skid where it does not impede floor traffic. It’s big and hard to ignore. There is no need to put it somewhere that people literally trip over it.

Mark the price clearly. Hand-lettered signs convey a strong sense of value if done neatly on a card that says “Special” or words to that effect.

Keep the skid well-stocked. While a loaded-up pallet looks great, few things look more forlorn than a skid with just a few orphaned bottles.

If you can’t manage to find the space inside your store for a skid to be placed comfortably, consider placing a good display outside the door. If you’re in a reasonably honest neighborhood, shrinkage should not be a problem.

Some outlets have had success with a similar merchandising approach for wiper blades, but especially considering the cost of some wiper units. When balanced against potential shrinkage costs, you’re better off to keep them inside in a high profile location.

I would suggest a similar approach to summer products, but for winter. Why not take the same display area you might have used for waxes, polishes and car wash products, and substitute winter-related products?

Where chamois and squeegees resided, insert scrapers and wiper blades. Where you had bottles of wax, perhaps you could insert a few bottles of windshield anti-freeze and any premium windshield cleaning products you might have, alongside lock deicer and fuel system treatments that you might deem appropriate.

If you have other retail-ready products in your repertoire, include these too. Items such as block heaters may not be a prime DIY item for all but the most experienced, but having them on display could spur some business for your installers. Don’t leave them out.

Batteries, while probably best suited to their own display, should be in a clear location. A decent selection of charged units should be available for the customer to take with them.

Also, lighting is not to be forgotten. Fog/driving lights are often of great benefit as nights become longer, plus deep winter snow can provide an impromptu low-mounted light removal service, which means a replacement set might be in order. Stock what you can, but know the various options available so that as wide a range as possible can be offered to the customer. You do not need to put your entire offering on this display, just a selection.

Other items to consider for winter sales are driveway and walkway deicing products, shovels (for clearing driveways as well as smaller shovels that can be kept in a trunk) and road safety kits.

Regardless of what your final selection is, one of the keys to an effective display is marking it clearly. A sign with “Winter Safety” on it is a good start. Also, the display should be neat and tidy. It should be well stocked, but avoid the temptation to put every unit you have in your inventory on display in the same location. Frequent restocking should be the rule, which also provides regular opportunities to tidy up a display and see what’s selling.

Setting up a display doesn’t take too much time, but it does take some thought. Get a plan, then execute.

Winter is coming, as sure as there are taxes; there’s no excuse for being caught by surprise.

A small display can highlight products targeted to winter needs. It can be augmented by bulk displays of products such as coolant/antifreeze and winter windshield washer.