Article > Editor’s Note

Want To Sell More Parts? Talk To A Woman

By Mark Phillips

Mark Phillips
If you have a strong retail presence and want to know how your store is perceived, ask a woman.
That’s what David Portalatin did.

Portalatin, director of industry analysis for NPD Group, asked hundreds of women their opinions on parts stores. He spoke during a presentation at last month’s Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium that was boldly titled, “What Do Women Want?”

Among the responses women gave:

“I think they largely cater to men and women find them unappealing.”

“Good place to go if you can’t find what you need at a retail store.”


But don’t feel bad. Women had some things to say about independent service shops as well. Here are just a few gems:

“They can mislead you about your car service.”

“Charge you way too much for something simple.”

“Most think women are stupid.”

What’s all this tell you? Portalatin says it speaks volumes about the automotive aftermarket in general. “There is a gender gap in this industry,” Portalatin told GAAS attendees. “It’s not existing just in our workplaces, but extends to the street, the service bays and the stores.”

Portalatin’s research uncovered some oddities regarding household budgets. NPD’s research found that women believe they control 70 percent of the household budget; men believe they control 56 percent. “Men actually think they’re spending more than half of the household budget,” he told GAAS members. “I wasn’t a math major in college, but I know that adds up to more than 100 percent.” It’s been widely known through research that women make the majority of the financial decisions in the household.

But there’s clearly a lot of work auto parts store must do to attract female customers, Portalatin said. He illustrated this through a story about his wife, who needed new wiper blades. She bought them at Wal-Mart. In doing so, Portalatin said his wife passed two national auto parts chains on the way there. “We have a problem in that for a lot of women, auto parts stores just aren’t on the radar,” he said.

What don’t women like about parts stores? In NPD’s research, women used words like “hate,” “unattractive,” and “unappealing.” Other said they were “smelly.”

Men who were polled by NPD sometimes said parts stores’ floors were “dirty,” Portalatin said. But they don’t care about stuff like that, he said. “Women care.”

There’s a good reason why you’ll want to listen to a woman to understand what would make a parts store more attractive: It will make it more attractive to all customers.

After all, who doesn’t want to shop at a clean store? Who doesn’t want to be greeted professionally and courteously? If you’re a retail operation seeing little walk-in traffic, there’s a problem. To get back on track, rather than talk to another automotive aftermarket about what to do, ask someone who’s never been to your store to walk in and tell you what they see.

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