With each new season, we’re presented with different challenges and different sales opportunities. It’s up to us to capitalize on these opportunities, and help boost our margins and keep our stores in the green. So, as the temperature starts to drop outside, let’s take a look at what we can do inside our stores to boost add-on sales, and what trends we can expect to see in the coming months.
‘Tis the season
The first category we’re going to look at is what I call “winter seasonal products.” These are the types of products that only come out to the shelf during this season. Ice scrapers, snow brushes, winter hats and gloves all fall into this category. Many stores will display these types of products on an end cap, or a special cardboard stand or display.
There are lots of opportunities to get add-on sales with this category. If a customer is buying a snow brush or ice scraper, ask them if they’d also like to pick up a pair of winter gloves, or a jug of de-icing windshield-washer fluid. Every little bit will help to boost your margins.
There are some products that fit into this category, but they stay out on the shelf all year long. One example would be fuel and oil additives. While these additives can be found all year long, they’ll likely move off the shelf faster in the winter. Why? Colder temperatures are especially harsh on vehicles that run on diesel fuel. When the temperature drops, diesel fuel can gel. This can lead to clogged fuel lines and filters. That’s why many diesel owners will pick up fuel-system treatments in the winter.
Battery sales tend to jump twice a year: when the temperatures climb in the summer, and again when they drop in the winter. Cold weather takes a toll on batteries and electrical systems. Engine oil is thicker when it’s cold, so the engine is harder to start than it would be at warmer temperatures. On top of that, the colder temperatures will sap the cranking power the battery has to offer. There’s a good reason why batteries are rated for cranking amps (CA) and cold-cranking amps (CCA). The temperature outside has a big impact on how much power the battery has to offer.
When it comes to selling batteries, always remember to offer dielectric compound, as well as the fiber insulators that slide over the battery posts and sit underneath the battery cables. I’ve also had good luck selling small, compact battery jump packs to customers in the past. These small battery jumpers aren’t much bigger than a cellphone, but they pack a big power punch when you need it most. They’re relatively inexpensive, but they offer some serious peace of mind.
I’ve talked before about how I dreaded two types of days in the parts store: heavy snowfall and heavy rainfall. Why? Because I knew that we would be selling a ton of wiper blades on those days. It also meant that I would be installing all of those wiper blades outside, so I’d either end up soaking wet from the rain, or frozen stiff from the snow and ice. Worst of all, our margin on wiper blades was pretty thin, so our store numbers wouldn’t fare very well that day.
So, what did we do to boost our margins? We would do our best to upsell the better wiper blades, as well as offering washer fluid and other add-ons along with the wipers. For SUVs and wagons, we would always ask them about the rear wiper blade. Experience has taught me that many customers will neglect that small rear wiper blade, so it’s important to ask.
Our final tip in this category is to tell your customers about the benefits of using a washer fluid with a de-icing formula. Many customers aren’t aware of how this type of washer fluid can help them day-to-day, and it’s an easy add-on sale.
Belts & Hoses
This final category will only represent a small percentage of your winter sales, but it’s important to be aware of what you can expect. Belts and hoses can become brittle, crack or break altogether when the temperature drops. Modern modular hoses usually will have plastic connectors or tees that are especially susceptible to the cold, and if they break, the customer will need to buy the entire hose. It’s important for your customers to check belts and hoses for signs of wear or damage before the winter weather hits. It’s much better to catch this sort of issue early, rather than wait until the vehicle breaks down on the side of the road.
I had a few customers who would stock up on detailing supplies once the weather started to turn. They told me that they would wax their car before the snow came so the paint would be better-protected from the elements. These days, ceramic coatings are available that do an even better job of protecting the paint from the hazards seen during the winter.
So, take a walk around your store and think about what you expect to see selling this winter. Come up with a game plan for how you can maximize your sales numbers heading into the winter season, and what types of add-on sales opportunities you can find.