COVID-19 Update: A New Market for Parts Departments

By Desiree Homer

With the major upset in operations brought on by COVID-19, there are a few silver linings and unintended benefits arising. Dealers learned to transition quickly to a digital-only engagement strategy, which most experts suggest is a good move regardless of a pandemic. Dealer owners were innovating to connect and support their local communities, based on the needs of the local market. This is an equally warranted move, providing stronger connections between dealer staff and local customers. Cheryl Miller says, “knowing your customer is now part of compliance.” As the Vice President of Operations for Dealertrack, along with heading up the Cox Automotive’s F&I efforts, Miller suggests, knowing your customer means uncovering new revenue opportunities. For Advance Auto Parts, the stay at home orders have allowed for a boost of parts customers. Are dealers leveraging their parts departments as well?

A Boost for Advance Auto Parts, Inc.

While many of the automotive businesses continue to experience slowdowns from the pandemic, Advance Auto Parts, Inc. saw rising share prices of 3.6% recently and an influx of new customers across its stores nationwide. The trend responsible for this jump to the aftermarket retailer’s bottom line is the increased number of Americans forced to stay at home. With nothing much else to do, consumers began working on, fixing, and cleaning their cars at home. The do-it-yourself business has remained robust during the shutdown, and those do-it-yourselfers need parts.

Why the Parts Departments May See More Business

New and used car sales may see declines, but those trends can translate to a new direction. With more people keeping their cars, they will also be exploring options for self-maintenance. For the last two months, people have had nothing but time to tire kick in the garage. This can present a real opportunity for parts departments to grow their exposure and customer base. Bringing new customers in for a car battery with the proper relationship building will lead to future service lane business and even sales. Vehicles will continue to break down or require maintenance. If car owners aren’t buying replacements yet, they’ll be in need of parts and service. CEO for the Advance Auto Parts, Tom Greco, says he believes the fix it yourself trend will sustain well into the coming months as people try to avoid mass transit and flying for trips.

Developing a Do-It-Yourselfer Marketing Plan

Dealers may want to consider beefing up their marketing strategies to target this growing market of do-it-yourself consumers. Bringing new faces into your dealership via the parts department may be the focus. But developing a strong relationship-building plan for engaging and retaining those parts customers will help transition them to become service and sales customers down the road. Keeping in tune with what your consumers are doing in their downtime can help you carve out the precise messages to persuade them.

It’s been a rough few weeks for most dealerships, and survival mode has been the order of the day, but unintended benefits and silver linings do present themselves. Dealers may want to consider a fresh strategy to take advantage of the do-it-yourself market in their regions.