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Pep Boys Takes a New Look at Customer Experience


Company reevaulates customers and product mix as it looks to remap and revitalize the shopping experience.

Pep Boys is looking at things in a new light.

As part of a major restructuring and retail renewal initiative, the auto parts retailer evaluated its merchandise and service mix, analyzed prevailing consumer behaviors and needs, and developed a revolutionary retail experience that the company hopes will enhance its competitiveness in a changing marketplace.

The company's objective was to develop a market-moving concept that would reposition Pep stores, enhance customer experiences and strengthen Pep Boys' emotional connection with customers.

 To assist in this endeavor, Pep Boys hired Big Red Rooster, a Columbus, OH based growth consultancy. The company looked at all the areas and ways that Pep Boys touched its customers. Merchandisers re-worked the various product categories into "worlds," each aligned with customers' needs. These "worlds"included: garage and organization, trucks, performance, maintenance, accessories, transportation, and service/installation. In addition, Pep Boys was simultaneously incorporating 60 percent new product into the merchandise mix, necessitating an integration of products not typically considered to be part of the automotive parts business, like scooters.

Challenged by the branding, merchandising and design issues this presented, a store plan was conceived that created both a logical shopping pattern as well as an exciting experience for the customer. The plan included the customer engagement areas, a new layout and flow, new fixtures, large graphics, merchandise analysis and new merchandise planning and presentation.

 Big Red Rooster also took a closer look at the female shopper, which comprises nearly half (47 percent) of Pep Boys' customers. The existing stores had a notably masculine feel, and the team set out to make the Pep Boys shopping experience more female-friendly.

The transfomation began with the restrooms, freshening them up and making them more appealing to women and their children.

In addition, the company wanted to create a more "kid friendly" environment. The Big Red Rooster team created a children's section in the waiting area, where kids can play but where parents can still keep an eye on them. The creation of this area keeps children occupied, eliminates stress for parents and keeps the aisles of the store clear of wandering children.

Because female customers typically seek out supplemental service and product information more often than their male counterparts, store signage needed to be redesigned in the waiting area. The signs now feature information regarding standard maintenance and preventative auto care like tire pressure checks and additional services and items that particularly female customers may not be aware they need.

 The redesigned aisles are wider and the floor space cleaner, allowing the customer to explore the items and compare products as well as navigate easier with children, carts and strollers.

Due to customers' confusion about services and pricing, Pep Boys also revised its services "menu board." Explanations of each service was expanded and Pep Boys created diagram books that the sales people can use to explain complicated services to customers. Using the visuals in the books, Pep Boys employees can easily show female and male customers alike, what part of their car needs servicing and why.

Diane Perduk Rambo, senior vice president of retail at Big Red Rooster, said that paying attention to the female shopping patterns was crucial.

"Women like to have as much information and guidance as they can get, especially when shopping this type of store," Perduk Rambo said. "We created signage throughout the store, which allows all customers to navigate easier, but we found women especially like this assistance."

The merchandise layout was also an area that Pep Boys addressed. An extensive parts counter was divided up into pods to make the display more approachable to the female customer or novice shopper.

 Finally, Pep Boys introduced new shopping carts to make the transport of items easier. Because many of the Pep Boys' products are large and unwieldy, the new shopping carts are larger and easier to accommodate the typical Pep Boys merchandise.

Coupled with the exciting new product mix and energizing promotion strategy implemented by Hal Smith, Pep Boys' executive vice president of merchandising and marketing, test market store sales are up significantly over the rest of the chain, exceeding Pep Boys' goals and expectations. The success of these remodels solidified Pep Boys' plan to remodel all of its stores through 2007.

According to Smith, "The remodeled stores have been re-merchandising with more impactful product displays that leverage Pep Boys' massive retail space, maximize sales per square foot, and create a permanent space for exciting new product categories including transportation and garage." He added that the company's re-merchandising and marketing initiatives will "continue to leverage Pep Boys' unique size and formidable format."

Perduk Rambo is also happy with the results.

"Anytime you get to take one of the oldest brands in a category and help position them competitively for today's marketplace, it gives you a special sense of pride," she said. "I think we've done that with Pep Boys, and have created a store environment and a retail program that can redefine the automotive aftermarket experience."

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