While millions of workers across the nation hunker down at home to limit the spread of the coronavirus, auto parts stores are open for business. But major parts retailers say they’re taking steps to protect employees and customers from the highly contagious virus.
Advance Auto Parts, AutoZone, NAPA Auto Parts, O’Reilly Auto Parts and Pep Boys are offering free curbside pickup for customers who opt to buy online and pick up their parts in the stores.
AutoZone launched curbside pickup on March 24. After customers order a part via the web or on the AutoZone mobile app, they receive a confirmation email when the order is ready. Then they have the option to pick up the part in the store or have it delivered to their vehicle in the store parking lot.
“When you arrive, call the store to let them know you have arrived. The store phone number is listed on your confirmation email along with the store address,” AutoZone explains on its website. “Once you arrive and call, a friendly AutoZoner will bring your order out to your car. When picking up your order it’s important to identify your vehicle for the fastest pick-up.”
AutoZone is limiting the number of in-store customers to 10 at one time. The parts chain continues to offer free services such as battery charging and alternator testing, but AutoZoners are required to wear gloves “and maintain appropriate social distancing when helping customers and performing services in our parking lots.”
“Additionally, we have temporarily restricted AutoZoners from entering the cabins of customers’ vehicles to provide assistance for any reason,” AutoZone explains on its website.
In addition to offering free curbside pickup, Advance Auto Parts is offering same-delivery in several of its markets.
“We recognize our customers may need products delivered to their homes more urgently and we have rapidly built capability to increase the speed of home delivery,” Advance CEO Tom Greco says in an email to customers. “In several markets, this includes our new same-day delivery service, an enhancement to our ship-to-home program that is already available. We are working urgently to accelerate our expansion of same-day delivery service to more markets as soon as possible.”
Advance also has responded to the coronavirus crisis “by taking care of our team members.”
“We’ve provided additional flexibility during this time in terms of both our attendance and sick-leave policy as well as implementing emergency pay guidelines, which includes additional paid sick time to team members who need it,” Greco adds. “We fully recognize how critically important our team members are to providing the care our customers need to repair their vehicles. We’ve also been rigorously cleaning and sanitizing our stores to help our customers get back on the road safely.”
Likewise, O’Reilly has “increased our housekeeping and sanitization efforts in our stores, distribution centers and corporate office,” O’Reilly CEO Greg Johnson explains on the O’Reilly website.
“We are frequently disinfecting often-touched surfaces such as door handles, countertops, keypads, restroom surfaces, shopping carts and baskets,” Johnson says. “We’re asking all of our team members to follow the CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of the infection. In these efforts, we are advising our team members to use disposable gloves, disinfectant spray and cleaning solution.
“We have implemented guidelines that instruct those team members who experience cold or flu-like symptoms, or individuals who have been diagnosed through testing with COVID-19, to stay home and follow the CDC’s instructions.”
While NAPA is open “and maintaining normal operations,” according to a message on its website, store employees “are taking precautionary measures to ensure the cleanliness of each NAPA Auto Parts store and we are providing all our employees with the latest information and training available to properly address potential coronavirus issues.”
“From our first store in Atlanta 92 years ago to the nearly 6000 stores across the United States today, the safety and well-being of our customers and teammates is the top priority at NAPA Auto Parts,” the company says on its website. “With this in mind, we also remain focused on the continued effectiveness of our supply chain to ensure our stores are fully stocked with daily service from our distribution centers. Our thoughts go out to all who have been affected during the unprecedented event. We truly appreciate the first responders, government officials and all our health care professionals who are working tirelessly in their communities.”
Pep Boys, which has service centers in all of its stores, has implemented safety measures for its parts and service operations.
For customers bringing their vehicles to Pep Boys for service or repair, the company has launched touchless drop-off and pick-up, “while also providing gloves, seat and steering-wheel covers and floor mats for vehicles,” CEOs Chris Cox (Parts) and Brian Kaner (Service) explain in a letter to customers on the Pep Boys website.
For customers purchasing parts online, Pep Boys is offering curbside pickup “where permitted,” and all stores and distribution centers “have implemented enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices, while also practicing social distancing,” Cox and Kaner explain.
Meanwhile, corporate staffers are “working hard remotely to continue to support the business.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued guidance categorizing the automotive aftermarket as an “essential” industry. The guidance indicates that repair shops, parts stores and other aftermarket businesses should be exempt from shelter-in-place orders. However, industry associations report that there have been inconsistencies in the implementation of these policies at the state and local levels.
“As a major employer and provider of essential products and services, as deemed by the federal government and the applicable local, county and state orders, we are committed to providing the critical parts and services in our communities,” Cox and Kaner say. “We continue to support the vehicles of the first responders, medical professionals and delivery drivers who are working tirelessly to provide food, medicine and other essential items during this difficult time.
“Although we’ve been deemed essential, the national guidelines continue to evolve quickly and each state, and in some cases individual cities, have unique requirements we are working hard to meet. Because local curfews or limits on who we can serve might impact our ability to assist you, we ask that you call your local store before visiting so that we can provide you the best possible service.”