Think your category is stalled? Sometimes a new twist on an old concept can really pump up your sales.
When Mark Derose and Chuck Pecoraro started their first automotive service center in 1986 in Douglas County, Colorado, their goal was to create a one-stop shop-gasoline sales, oil changes, tire repair and a convenience store. As the area's population boomed, they saw an opportunity to carve out a niche targeting women.
In 1999, Great American Tire and Auto Service Centers revved up efforts to create the destination of choice for female drivers: a bright, clean waiting room; plush leather sofas; up-to-date magazines; clearly posted prices; and complimentary coffee and bottled water. A prototype store was developed by The Retail Group of Seattle, which has designed stores for NikeTown, Starbucks and Target. In place of huge stacks of tires, the centers offer interactive kiosks where visitors see how their cars would look with new tires and rims. To improve customer service, the company routinely sends out promotional reminders of needed maintenance. A partnership with Nordstrom offers free lip balm with a lube job, and anyone who gets an oil change on Thursday nights receives a massage. The company's message of servicing the soul, not just the car, is embodied by philanthropic involvement.
Sales have surpassed company projections by 20 percent, women comprise 65 percent of the centers' clientele, and Great American has partnered with Shell Oil Products U.S. to open 50 new stores in the next two years. Clearly, creating a new concept is one way to lap your competitors.
Elizabeth J. Goodgold is CEO/chief nuancer of The Nuancing Group, a brand consulting firm in San Diego, and author of the monthly newsletter Duh! Marketing.
- Great American Tire and Auto Service Centers
(720) 529-2800, www.gatire.com
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