The X Factor
Children and pets are probably the last thing you think of when you pic- ture a fast lube shop. However, today’s competitive market is challenging us to integrate the way we do business with our customers’ lifestyles — and for many people that includes kids and pets.
A recent survey by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates and Nickelodeon reported that 40 percent of parents say that the places they shop are influenced by their children, and 50 percent said going to a store that their child likes makes shopping easier. In a nation that has 73.9 million children, that represents a powerful incentive.
Another recent survey, done by eBay Local, revealed that 34 percent of people said they preferred to shop in a pet-friendly business, and 31 percent of the pet owners said they’d tell their friends about stores that allow pets. Add that to the 71 million pet owners in America whose spending topped $47.7 billion in 2010, and you have another significant market to tap into.
Adding a few simple amenities that make your shop more kid and pet-friendly could be the “X” factor that sets your shop apart from the competition, resulting in a big impact on your bottom line.
Becoming Kid Centric
For Chris Tolsdorf, owner of Tolsdorf Oil Lube Express in Pennsylvania, the decision to add a small kids’ area to his shop came about 15 years ago, soon after he and his wife had their first child.
“The first thing you should know about setting up a space for kids is that it doesn’t have to be complicated; it can be really simple. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on it,” Tolsdorf said. “When we were initially trying to figure out what we should put in the kids’ area, the first thing we thought of was IKEA, a retailer of modern-style, economically priced, ready to assemble furniture and accessories. They make all sorts of great kids’ stuff. It’s pretty inexpensive and easy to replace if something starts to wear.”
Tolsdorf stocked his kids’ area for less than $100 with a kid size table and chairs (starting at $19.99 for the whole set from IKEA), a few sturdy toys like a bead maze and some blocks ($7.99 each from IKEA), a storage basket ($4.99 from IKEA) and some kids’ books (as low as $1 for a set of two from Dollar Tree). The kids’ area at Tolsdorf Oil Lube Express is just in a small corner in the waiting area, but it gets quite a bit of attention from parents and kids.
“We definitely have a lot of people comment on it, and there are still times when a technician comes in to do a service review and they have to interrupt a father reading a book to their kid,” Tolsdorf said.
Even a few small things at your shop like coloring pages, crayons and a candy bowl could go a long way toward making your shop more kid-friendly. Twistynoodle.com is a cool website where you can make free, custom car themed coloring pages with your company name. Dollar stores, such as The Dollar Tree (where everything costs a dollar), have many great options from crayon packs, to story books, coloring books, candy and more.
Perfecting Pet Friendly
Pat Wirth, former CEO of Potomac Falls Express Lube & Car Wash in Virginia and owner of an energetic Golden Retriever, always felt strongly about making sure her customers’ four-legged family members feel welcome.