These days, when it comes to showrooms and customer lounges, there’s a lot of potty talk going on. But, it’s not what you might think. Tire dealers are literally cleaning up their act, and it has nothing to do with verbal communication. It has everything to do with attracting and keeping customers.
“I’m very serious when I say that we, as an industry, are cleaning up the restrooms to keep our customers,” says Jeff Burke, marketing director of the distribution division for Alliance, Ohio-based Terry’s Tire Town. “It’s a logical place to focus on because we believe customers put a lot of importance on cleanliness.”
Restrooms, however, are only a part of the showroom clean-up trend. The full focus today is on cleanliness, warmth, comfort and plenty of amenities, all designed to keep the customers of the 21st century happy, satisfied and wanting to come back. Yes, that includes the restrooms, but it’s much more than ‘el baÑo.’
“Clean bathrooms are part of the trend,” Burke says matter of factly. “And, while you have to modernize and clean up your facilities, you also have to continue to keep mom and pop comfortable.”
“Mom and pop” might be a euphemism for the traditional customer of the 20th century, but Burke and the rest of the industry recognize the profile of today’s clientele is changing as fast as tires in the pits at a NASCAR race.
More than half of today’s tire showroom customers are women, and dealers are adapting to that growing audience with a diverse selection of marketing entrees. “This segment of the market has been increasing for about 10 years,” says Burke. “And, women put a great deal of emphasis on cleanliness and comfort.”
That trend not only permeates the tire industry but also reveals a significant and continuous shift in the national buying habits of American shoppers in general.
In a recent survey of chief purchasing officers of major corporations, it was revealed that women make more than 80% of the buying decisions in U.S. households today. They’ve become nearly every family’s chief buyer and shopper. Women are buying the majority of consumer-electronics and home-improvement goods today, as well as the weekly groceries. Don’t look now, but they also make more of the vehicle and car-maintenance decisions.In the process, women are dramatically changing how products and services are designed, presented and marketed in America.
For example, Harley-Davidson, long a symbol of American male machismo, this past November added a section on its Web site dedicated to women motorcyclists, with tips on how to ride a bike safely and with the right gear.
Harley was responding to the growing popularity of motorcycles among women. In 2003, women bought 10%, or 23,000, of all Harleys sold, vs. just 2% in 1985.
While not as dramatic as the data revealed by the chief purchasers’ survey, the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association’s (AAIA) recent Vehicle Maintenance and the Female Motorist Study discovered that 44% of women take their vehicles most often to an auto dealership for maintenance and repairs. Thirty-eight percent take their vehicles most often to independent repair shops, while the remaining 18% take their vehicles to other sources.
But Jody DeVere, president of AskPatty.com Inc., a Web site devoted to “Automotive Advice for Women,” confidently states, “Women control or influence 85% of all purchasing decisions. By 2010, women will own 50% of U.S. private wealth ($12.5 trillion).”
DeVere delivered a poignant discussion about the automotive aftermarket and growth opportunities at last year’s SEMA Show in Las Vegas. She said to SEMA attendees: “Properly armed with the right tools and training, your business can increase its share of the largest and fastest-growing segment of new-vehicle buyers and buyers of automotive accessories in the U.S.”
It’s no wonder, then, that savvy tire dealers are changing showrooms, among other things, to deal with this ever-growing population of buyers.