By Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber
Auto Biz Solutions
This is the first in what will be an occasional column tackling some of the issues that affect parts stores and hopefully offer some solutions along the way. In our experiences of owning and operating a chain of auto parts stores for more than 40 years, as well as owning and operating a successful auto repair center for 24 years, we’ve been through it all.
The automotive aftermarket is an extremely complex business for both parts stores and repair centers. Service customers are demanding and have severe time restraints. This, in turn, led to the 15-minute hot-shot delivery.
Obviously, this is not the optimal situation for the parts supplier, especially when the service facility calls more than one parts store and takes the delivery from the first to arrive. In addition, selling lower-priced, lower-quality parts certainly is not the answer to a profitable endeavor.
How often are counter personnel sent to training classes? We’ve have seen time and time again where some counterpeople fail to listen or take notes to obtain the critical information needed to provide the correct parts the first time. Technicians are constantly complaining about having to repeat themselves, wasting valuable time.
We’ve seen professional customers on the phone who, when asked by counterpros for the information needed to determine the correct part, simply say “send me everything, I don’t have time” or “the car is in the air.” We constantly hear this. It’s a sure-fire path to creating inventory issues and greatly increasing our return rates.
From our perspective, proper business training is the answer, is needed and is essential. After all, you can’t train too much.
Financial training on profitability, implementation and utilization of budgets is paramount. Lack of counter personnel training on both the vehicle systems and the service facility’s needs to generate a profit must be explored. Payroll, staffing, scheduling and the high costs of medical benefits are ongoing items in need of attention. Outside salesmen who are no more than order-takers are dinosaurs and have to be re-trained in modern selling techniques or replaced.
Many of today’s parts stores have been around for a long time and are in need of a face lift, as well as a revamp of their
retail sales areas to compete effectively with the mass merchandisers. We’ve found that simple things such as a new modern sign on the building creates a renewed interest and many times leads to customers looking to see what else is being changed or updated. Old, dusty retail areas not properly merchandised simply turn customers off.
Unfortunately, even managers and business owners are simply willing to let the status quo exist. Merchandising new products properly on well-stocked endcaps is not rocket science, however we are not trained to do so many of us are old school.
We’ve simply touched on some of the issues we’d like to tackle in the coming months. We’re two people seeking to help parts stores improve their businesses. Let us know what burning issues keep you up at night and we’ll try to find some
Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber (formerly of Markauto Parts located in the Hudson Valley of N.Y.) operate Auto Biz Solutions, which provides training, marketing, management and business consulting services to both the automotive jobber and independent repair shop. For more information, go to www.autobizsolutionsllc.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (845) 947-1121.