You just never know who your next competitor will be. Think beyond the import specialist shop down the road and the franchised service outlet around the corner. Think retail.
Think J.C. Whitney & Company, the giant direct marketer of name-brand automotive parts and accessories, providing “everything automotive” with more than 100,000 items covering more than six million applications.
In case you haven’t heard, J.C. Whitney recently announced its newest offering – InstallPRO – a network of “certified automotive service and vehicle customization shops,” ready to provide “professional installation” of its vehicle accessory and performance enthusiast products.
Here’s how the program works:
J.C. Whitney sells a product to a consumer who wants it professionally installed. That consumer selects an installer location from a list of InstallPRO facilities in his/her geographic area. These locations are certified by specific types of installation services including, Engine Performance; Exhaust Systems; Suspension Systems; Brake Systems; Interior Bolt-on; and Tires/Wheels.
J.C. Whitney ships the product to the installer location, along with details about the installation, and provides the customer’s name and phone number to arrange an appointment. The customer pays J.C. Whitney for the product and the installer for the service.
You might be thinking that installers who participate in the program won’t be competitors because many of the products being installed are low-tech. Think again.
The list of products for sale on the website include those that provide your bread-and-butter service opportunities, like brakes, electrical systems, engine cooling parts, exhaust and emissions parts, fuel systems and transmission/drivetrain components.
So, you see, it’s more than do-it-yourself items like floor mats, fender flares, nose bras, car covers, car care chemicals, deflectors, visors and accessories, that J.C. Whitney is typically known for. What this means is that these installer locations will be offering some of the same services your shop offers. And, even though these installers aren’t making any money on the parts, they have access to the vehicles for other repair opportunities – some of which could be yours!
The program is being promoted as a means to attract new customers with “zero customer acquisition costs,” and a way to obtain “qualified customers with long-term maintenance service potential.” There are currently more than 500 participating installer locations in 40 states.
As J.C. Whitney targets the vehicle enthusiast with installation services for products that go beyond accessories, your competition will continue to grow.
Now is a good time to secure your existing customer base. Promote your service expertise. Detail your service offerings. Let your customers know you want to be their long-term service provider (the “customers for life” theory). Deliver the utmost in customer service, so customer referrals to your shop will increase.
Keep your eye out for the new kid on the block. He just might not be a friendly neighbor!