Parts stores that sell paint are often not very successful. My question is, why can’t we make a go of paint? Why does that guy not buy from me and why do they order their paint from out of town? How can my competition sell at my cost and make money? The questions go on, seemingly with no real answers.
However, with many years of experience on both sides of the industry, including nine of those years in a stand-alone paint store with no parts, it all comes down to the time spent in the areas in which the most profit is made.
We focus all of our efforts in the areas that are making us the most amount of money, and paint is not that area. It is a hassle dealing with that indecisive dude across the counter who does not understand the difference in code 12 on GM or what Ford E9 means to the painter, and, oh my, this guy has never sprayed paint before and he is going to paint this classic hot rod he has 40K in — himself! We spend more time trying to convince him not to try it than trying to teach and convince him he can actually do it himself. Since more than 80 percent of our business is in the parts side, when we leave that guy sitting there scratching his head to answer the phone for that $25 coolant temp sensor and the $75 starter, he says, “Thanks. I’ll do some looking around and think about it.”
You obviously have a good reputation for helping your customer in the parts business and this guy has no hard feelings toward you but that $500 to $1,000 just left and you did not even get the chance to tell him how much you appreciated him stopping by.
Now stop and consider the options here. Why do people buy from us? They buy from us because we are good, local folks who go the extra mile to help them at all costs. We stay in business because when others have faltered and faded away, we’ve maintained a level of service that keeps our core customer base close to home.
So, instead of letting him walk out, what do we do? The problem is, we do not know any more about the paint on our shelf than this guy who came in off the street. We must train and take initiative as the
owner/manager and learn what the products do and what this guy really wanted.
It is not always about the part; it is about asking the right questions to find out what the customer really needs. So we should ask, what will you be doing with this car? Will it be driven to shows or trailered? Will you be keeping it in a garage or will it be sitting out in the East Texas sun? Then, we ask, how much are you expecting to spend? Well, is it at the bare metal stage or is it in primer now? Do you wish to use single stage paint of basecoat/clearcoat? Did you know at some of the national shows you could actually get points deducted for not using single stage paint?
The questions are endless and without the proper knowledge of the paint business how can we possibly know what to ask?
Gerald Wheelus is general manager of Edgewood Auto Parts, Edgewood, Texas.