It’s cold and only getting colder. That means the speed and performance side of the business is slowing down. Here are a few tips and tricks to keep you from twiddling your thumbs and going stir crazy during the winter lull. Even better, we’re going to talk about taking advantage of the quiet time in order to hit the up-and-coming spring season with wheels spinning.
For newcomers to the industry, or those fortunate enough to live in warm weather year-round, it may be a bit of a surprise that the winter season throws a big wrench in things for speed shops. Street rods and muscle cars get covered up. And there goes the regular walk-in sales you were able to nab with weekend tuners. Tracks shut their doors and car shows have also come to a halt, so these avenues of business obviously slow down, too. And even though customers do traipse through, sales are definitely impacted. Sure, speed items can be big-ticket items, but a thousand dollars in a few weeks doesn’t pay today’s bills.
It certainly seems like a ghost town this time of year. But just because weekend cruises, track days, and car shows are on hold doesn’t mean you don’t have any opportunities to cash in. And that payday, well, it’s coming in the form of business development. That means evaluating processes and productivity, determining clear goals and priorities, and providing continued education and on-site training for employees. Sometimes it also means more physical tasks like scrubbing inventory, cleaning out the back room, and updating the showroom floor. Here are a few more things every shop owner should be thinking about…
Project Cars in Winter
It’s important to remember that winter means project season. And that means you have an even greater chance to make some sales—ones that you may have struggled to land any other time of the year. Continue building a lasting relationship with current customers who influence your business. And keep them talking, because those same customers bring in new business. These enthusiasts are part of car and 4×4 clubs, may frequent motorsport tracks, or do winter wheeling. Bottom line, think outside the box. If they don’t require your assistance on a current build, it’s likely they know someone else who might. Be open to project builds that steer slightly left of center to round out your team’s knowledge and skill sets, as well as expand your business portfolio.
With less foot traffic in the stores during winter, it’s critical that every employee-customer conversation be a home run. Upsell, upsell, upsell. If a customer is tearing down the engine during winter, then take an interest in the details so you can see how big or small the project really is. Cylinder heads, intakes, fuel systems, and exhaust parts are all fair game upgrades with this kind of customer.
Take advantage of seasonal trends. “A change of season means a change of brakes. Going from winter to spring or spring to winter- that’s an automatic opportunity for brake jobs,” said Jon Ruzzi, Sales Manager at Keystone Canada. Any traditional speed shop can round out its specialty services with a pickup in brakes, winter tires, and basic add-ons like de-icer, washer fluid, or wiper blades. “Napa and the tire shop down the road are getting the sales, so why not you?” continued Ruzzi.
Don’t overlook basic repairs. Have a customer dealing with a leaky carb? You can talk to him about the issues and may be able to make some small sales on parts, or possibly convince the customer to take full advantage of the downtime at the shop and spend the extra money on a new carb altogether. Hell, maybe he’ll surprise you and swing for a fuel injection upgrade. So, use the extra time to practice those pitches.
Daily Drivers vs Project Cars
It’s likely that your customers have other means of transportation. After all, their project vehicle is in the shop, but they definitely didn’t ride a skateboard to your business in the dead of winter. Ask them about their daily driver and see if there’s additional opportunities for floor liners, seat covers, tonneau covers, and other accessory add-ons.
Knowledge is Power
It’s beneficial to spend this time of year researching regional and national market trends and how it’s affecting consumer demand in your area. Be even more mindful of who is purchasing what. Are customers looking at and asking about superchargers over turbochargers? And if so, what are the demographics of these customers? New tires might be released in the off season, or maybe even a new carb makes its way to the aftermarket. A winter lull gives you a chance to test them at the shop.
The nature of the beast is understanding the customer. And what better time to do that then now? Your customers are an avenue to incremental business. Different trends dominate the market every year, and getting a leg up on the upcoming season is a sure-fire way to increase income.