Holiday Shoppers Want the Full Experience

This post kicks off our inaugural “30 Days of Christmas” segment. Beginning this weekend, readers can cruise over to The Engine Block for daily gift-giving features in every price point. Product coverage will include everything from hardcore performance suggestions and must-haves for daily drivers to a 4×4 and recreational activities wish list. Our team of industry insiders is excited to make holiday shopping less stressful this year! But first things first: let’s make sure our favorite automotive retailers are ready to provide the full holiday shopping experience. 

Give Them What They Want for the Holiday…

Not everyone wants to unceremoniously dump his or her items in an Amazon shopping cart and call it a day. Though hard to believe, some actually still enjoy a conventional holiday shopping experience. And for those customers, retailers and restylers must appeal to the nostalgia of traditional holiday shopping. What better way to minimize the impact e-commerce sales have on brick-and-mortar profits than to give customers exactly what an online interface can’t: personalized interaction with staff and products in an actual showroom that’s dressed for success this holiday shopping season.

But the clock is ticking. So, if you haven’t done so already, today is the day to consider a solid sales plan, secure proper seasonal inventory, showcase an attractive and inviting storefront, and create custom in-store promotions. Customers are watching and waiting, and your bottom line is dependent upon it.

Develop a Solid Sales Plan

Shop owners usually count on solid October, November, and December sales to carry them through the lull of the New Year. “We start talking about the holidays in early September and put together our store flyer by early October. We look at previous year sales, as well as new items and widgets in every price range, including gifts under $25 and $50. Then we adjust store inventory based on that information,” said Rudy Forlenza, industry veteran of 40 years and General Manager of 18 A&A Auto stores located in northeastern, Pennsylvania.

Drum excitement for the upcoming holiday season by launching an online contest, allowing for the collection of consumer contact information so they can be entered to win a prize. “Make the prize worth the participation. Use the same concept to encourage another purchase after Christmas and carry the contest right through New Year,” said Jason McDonald, Director of Canadian Sales at Keystone.

Whatever the decision, make social media a big part of the execution plan and remember to have fun! “Pre-promote to draw customers in. Encourage customers to follow you for future promotional offers, i.e., 12 tweets of Christmas or daily deals,” continued McDonald.

Paul Breton, owner of Car-risma in Massachusetts, advertises holiday specials on the shop website, communicates deals and product selection with customers via social media, and starts to hang up the Christmas decorations right after Halloween. Be creative: “We do a good business in remote car starters during fall. We save all those boxes and then do a remote starter tree display (by the toy soldier) for the holidays,” said Breton.

First Impressions Count

Help make it an enjoyable retail experience by creating an engaging first impression. Greet consumers with a clean, organized, and presentable storefront that captures interest. Showcase an appropriate mix of holiday décor and seasonal products. Entice them to step inside and spend! “The store displays, such as end caps, display tables, gift guides, and holiday flyers, should be placed in hightraffic areas,” said Forlenza. Breton keeps Keystone’s holiday program flyers by the register and in the catalog section, sharing the deals with every customer who passes through.

And don’t forget about the kids! “Sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most like inexpensive pre-wrapped gifts, such as candy canes, mini flashlights, or hot wheels cars (preferably with your logo on the package). Hand them out to kids as they come in and watch them light up,” said McDonald. Happy kids equals happy parents during the shopping experience.

Set the Mood for the Right Product to Sell

It’s also important to ensure an effective use of color, lighting, music, product segmentation, display and demonstration, directional signage, and aisle presentation. All of these influence consumer perspective and are effective tools in converting window shopping to actual sales. Focus on the appropriate combination of new and top selling products/applications, seasonal favorites, impulse buys, and clearance or discounted items.

“It’s a good time of year to mark down the items that have been stalled during recent months,” said Breton.

Product Suggestions

The right product combination depends on your core business, but here are some holiday favorites to consider: remote starters and electronics, i.e., back-up cameras, JVC head units, Traxxas remote cars; Bestop® Jeep tops and off-road accessories by trusted names like ARB, TrailFX, and Rugged Ridge; truck accessories such as BOLT locks, Weather Guard toolboxes, Dee Zee tailgate assists, Extang tonneau covers, Pendaform bedliners, and tubular items like Westin nerf bars; vehicle protection like WeatherTech floor and cargo liners, Husky Liners mud flaps and Meguiars, Mothers, or Surf City car care products; affordable suspension items such as Pro Comp lift kits, Daystar level kits, and Rancho, Fabtech, Skyjacker, or ReadyLIFT shocks; and performance favorites like tuners, exhaust, gauges, and electronic upgrades by name brands like Superchips, DiabloSport, Bullydog, Magnaflow, aFe POWER®, Autometer, and AEM Electronics.

“Most drivers don’t have all the things they need in their trunk or glove box to help them in a flat tire situation, etc. Unique flashlights, battery packs like Weego, and C-TEK chargers can fit in small spaces like a glove box. These items make great, practical gifts for those who are tough to buy for,” said McDonald. “And you can get creative by purchasing an old glove box from a salvage yard, stuff it with ideal products, and add a sign, ‘What’s in your glovebox?’”

Likewise, the checkout counter should feature stocking stuffers, offering consumers an array of neatly displayed, irresistible impulse buys including, but not limited to, in-store and brand name gift cards, widgets, and gadgets. Breton upsells in-store gift certificates and keeps items like Sanszo waterless car wash by the register; it’s a great product for any general consumer looking to conserve year round, even during the winter!

Now Display It…

Having the right product is only half the battle. Now display it creatively to secure the sale. Randy Packard and his crew at NE Superior Interior in New Hampshire set up a tire display in the form of a Christmas tree and wrap presents that are placed underneath. Make a qualifying purchase and receive an additional free gift from under the tree; products range from accessories like soft top cleaners to $100 gift cards.

“The key is to keep people interested. Keep the showroom fresh and fun,” said Packard. “One year I had the nose of a Jeep sticking out of the wall and it was all tricked out with any of the product you’d use to upfit the vehicle. Customers have to be able to visualize an end result. We want them to touch it, feel it. We even mount wheels and tires to encourage the upsell,” he continued.

McDonald’s merchandising advice: Remove a few items from the display. “A perfectly stocked display may tell an uncertain customer, ‘Maybe nobody buys these.’ A few strategically missing boxes can create a sense of need.”

Proper Training and Effective Tools

What sets a retailer apart from e-commerce? Never underestimate the importance of highly-trained employees. “If you want to maximize sales then you have to employ a knowledgeable team. Customers like to deal with sales people who know the products and provide great customer service,” said Tyler Moore of Trucks and Moore in Augusta, GA. “People like to do business with people instead of a machine.”

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