Show Yourself

Dec 2, 2009

No matter the size or style of your speed shop — whether you have 5,000 square feet of neon-lighted floor space or simply a corner of the garage between the CNC machines — having a place to talk and work with customers provides opportunities for add-on sales.

A well-placed display of the products you sell in a showroom-type setting goes a long way toward helping customers understand everything your shop has to offer.

We turned to several performance product manufacturers that offer Point-of-Purchase displays or similar showroom devices to their customers to learn more about the importance of creating an attractive showroom area in any performance retail outlet.

Think Like a Customer

Paul Grabowski of Mr. Gasket leads off with the number-one rule to keep in mind, no matter what type of showroom your speed shop has.

“The best tip for creating a user-friendly showroom is to pretend you are a customer, and decide what would appeal to you,” Grabowski says. “If you’re a race shop, then race-inspired P.O.P. displays, showing off the latest technology in special racing products, such as aluminum heads or the latest circle track ignition would be in the front, while the small display of flashlights and Pepsi would be off to the side.”

Tim Stewart from K&N Engineering continues on that point.

“A showroom should include displays that catch the consumer’s attention and provide enough information to encourage questions and enable the counterman to engage in selling the product. The smaller the showroom is, the more important the displays become versus product on shelves, unless you are selling universal commodity-type products.”

A lot of thought is put into the design of the displays aftermarket automotive manufacturers are putting out there as well. It’s a lot more than a few hooks on a pegboard.

“We design our in-store product displays to accomplish several goals,” says Tom Miller of Design Engineering Inc. (DEI). “One is to make sure the display is attractive to grab attention and we include only the fastest-turning, best-selling products that we offer. ‘Turns’ are what are important to dealers, along with products that are profitable. The second challenge is to make this simple, affordable, versatile, easy-to-order and to include a value-added element for the dealer. So we include the grid panel, hooks, stand-free legs, vinyl header card and the hardware to mount the display on a wall as an option free to the dealer.  It doesn’t get much simpler than that.”

Mr. Gasket does its legwork for its dealers as well, says Grabowski.

“We gain input from our retailers, WDs and potential customers to create an item that can easily be built, shipped and displayed to the target audience. From a design standpoint, we like to make our P.O.P. easy to ship and easy to set up. There is nothing more frustrating than to spend three hours piecing together a display that stands 6-feet tall (but) does nothing but get in your customers’ or employees’ way. A well-designed P.O.P. display will make the most of your store inventory space while providing everything needed to make a quality sale.”

L.J. Lobsinger Jr., national sales manager for Specialty Auto Parts USA Inc. and co-owner of the Detroit Muscle apparel company, explains how his company’s Planolog planogram features a combination of top SKUs in a simple flip-chart style, including a version with a motion-activated engine revving sound to attract attention.

“We had two things in mind ease of use and ease of sale, meaning we wanted the consumer to see additional parts available but not necessarily stocking items, and we wanted them to see the price so they’d have nothing more to do than simply bring the part number to the counter to purchase,” he says. “It’s simple and it’s proven to increase add-on sales through special orders of high-dollar items.”

The Right Location

K&N’s premier P.O.P. display is an Air Flow Demonstrator, which attracts the customer’s attention via a floating ping pong ball and invites interaction with the consumer to compare a K&N High-Flow Air Filter with a disposable paper element air filter.

“This display was designed in-house by engineers who understood air flow and pressure drop. It is most effective when kept running to keep the ball floating, or when a salesman walks the customer over to demonstrate,” says K&N’s Stewart.

Lobsinger explains the importance of showroom displays that catch the customer’s eye early in the sales process.

“You must encourage your customer to really see the entire line of available products before the sale is complete by taking a few minutes to encourage the customer to review the available information in the display,” he says. “In this economy, many customers are not ready for an immediate add-on or up-sell, but if you’re the one to show them what’s new and what’s available, and your price is competitive, you’ll get that sale maybe not today, but soon enough.”

All the manufacturers interviewed for this story agree on one key thing: Point-of-Purchase displays work, no matter what size your showroom is.

“Independent speed shops have seen big boosts in sales by catching the 70 percent of impulse buyers as well as many who special-order other products sourced through our catalog, which is attached to each display,” says Brian Murphy of BBK Performance.

Bottom line: set up the displays where your customers can see them.

“Put the display in an easily accessible location, preferably a parts counter where the counterman can inquire if the customer is familiar with the product and demonstrate its effectiveness,” says Stewart.  “Between increased performance and the washable lifetime nature of a K&N (filter) it’s usually an easy up-sell.”

Mr. Gasket’s Grabowski continues on the real estate mantra that location is everything.

“The ideal location is usually around similar product categories. A valve cover gasket P.O.P. will be more visible when placed close to a chrome valve cover display, making for an easy add-on sale.”

As a company, DEI believes so strongly in the power of the P.O.P. display that it invites other manufacturers to share their space.

“Because we occupy only one side of the display grid panel with Design Engineering products, that leaves the other side to display other products,” Miller says. “Do we hope retailers will hang more of our product on the other side? Of course. But at least we’re offering that option to the independent speed shop.”

Do it Right

There are, however, pitfalls to avoid when considering a P.O.P. display for your valuable, limited showroom space, Miller adds.

“If you have a cluttered and uninviting customer space, and the wrong mix of products displayed, it’s almost as bad as not knowing who your customers are,” he says. “Put some thought into what you are displaying.”

Lobsinger adds that looks and presentation are keys.

“Keep it new, exciting and profitable,” he says of showroom displays. “I don’t care if it’s new T-shirts or valve covers, you must stock the newest and most profitable items from a manufacturer. Don’t get caught up in competing with mail order by stocking a 20-year old ‘A’ mover.”

The biggest mistake many performance retailers make, he says, is “keeping old and dusty products on the shelf. How many times have we been in a jobber’s shop and there’s a bunch of old air cleaners sitting on a shelf with dust on them? Broom the dead inventory and keep your product mix fresh.”

BBK’s Murphy says to make sure the displays accurately reflect your inventory, and the likely needs of your main customer base.

“The biggest and easiest mistake in today’s market is selling customers the wrong applications that are vehicle-specific or not realizing that there are many products to offer that do fit that particular application,” Murphy says. “BBK has spent a great deal of time updating our website to offer tools such as ‘shop by make and model’ to make this research easier for stores and retail customers.”

Along those same lines, K&N’s Stewart urges all shop owners to provide as much information as possible to their customers to back up any showroom sales.

“For application-intensive products such as wiper blades, air filters and batteries, be sure to provide current paper catalogs within reach of the consumer. The more informed he is by the time he reaches the counter, the better the interaction will be.”

And always rely on the tried-and-true product endorsement angle, according to Grabowski.