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Wipers: A Sales Window of Opportunity


3/1/2005

 

Let's face it: Wipers are generally - and unfortunately - replaced only when the motorist can't see through his or her windshield. Nevertheless, wipers are a fast growing category and offer some nice margins, particularly among premium lines.

With just a little extra sales and marketing push in this area, the typical jobber can achieve higher profit margins and greater DIYer exposure in today's windshield wiper replacement market.

Windshield wiper replacement represents a huge market that could even be even larger if more consumers paid closer attention to the condition of their wiper blades. However, most consumers are not aware of the average life span of a wiper blade until it's too late.

Most consumers will wait until their blades are falling apart, chattering or streaking horribly before it dawns on them that the blades need replacing. (You'd swear they think their blades should last as long as their new car warranty). However, for optimum performance and driving visibility, blades should be replaced every six months or 6,000 miles.

The next time a customer comes in for an oil filter, spark plugs or other maintenance parts for his vehicle, ask the customer about the last time the blades were replaced. Inform the customer about the dangers of wiper blade neglect while pushing the benefits of regular blade replacement. Not only will you get an extra sale, the DIYer will think you're concerned about his or her safety, as well. After all, 90 percent of all driving decisions are based on a clear, unobstructed view of the road ahead.

Ask your installer customers to do the same. The next time they have a vehicle in for repair, ask them to check the condition of the blades. It doesn't take a lot of time and effort but in the long run, the results can be good for your bottom line.

GOOD BLADES GONE BAD
Even if consumers live in a place where it never rains, environmental elements alone are the major reason behind a blade's short life. Ozone, airborne contaminants, oil, sunlight and road film all help to weaken the wiper's functionality. Exposure to sunlight and ozone causes the wipers to age, even if the wipers aren't used much.

Freezing temperatures, common during this time of year in many parts of the country, make rubber hard and brittle, which increases the tendency to crack or tear. Hot weather can warp rubber and prevent the blade from wiping cleanly.

Heavy use is hard on the blades, too. Dust, abrasives, road grime and even bug guts wear away the cutting edge the blade needs to wipe cleanly. Even road dirt acts like an abrasive to wear away the flat surface necessary for a good squeegee effect. Also natural rubber deteriorates over time. As the blades age, they lose much of their flexibility and are less able to wipe cleanly. They may develop a permanent set (called "parked" rubber) or curvature which prevents full contact with the windshield.

EDUCATING THE CONSUMER
Not all vehicles are easy for installing wipers, so store personnel should try to make themselves familiar with some of the more common installation problems. In fact, many people delay replacing their wiper blades because of the difficulty in using the adapters most blades come with and which are needed to fit an assortment of wiper arms.

How well a particular set of blades performs is also important. The blades are part of the windshield wiper system, which includes the wiper arms and holders.

Today's windshields are more sloped than ever before for improved aerodynamics. But a sleek "cab-forward" windshield with a lot of glass area directs more wind against the wipers which can force the blades away from the glass at high speeds; that is, unless the wiper system and blades are designed to resist lift. Replacement blades and other wiper system components should be properly designed to equal or exceed the anti-lift performance of the original parts. On newer vehicles with steeply-raked windshields, wind lift at high speed can be a problem if the correct replacement blades are not installed. For these applications, recommend anti-lift blades that incorporate aerodynamic features to keep blades in firm contact with the glass at all speeds.















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