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When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic back in March 2020, every industry was adversely affected to some extent. As the months continued, many businesses struggled to stay afloat as mandatory lockdowns across the country forced both employees and customers to stay home.

Even once those lockdowns were lifted, quick lube shops still felt the sting of the virus and had to figure out how to keep customers coming through.

Jonnie Hendrickson, president of Winnipeg-based Super Auto Centres, says her six stores were no exception. So, how did the chain implement a promotion that got people back in to service their vehicles following a global pandemic?  

The Challenge

All six of Super Auto Centres’ locations closed down near the end of April 2020 in order to make some changes to better protect against COVID-19. Once they reopened, though, fewer drivers were needing service on their vehicles due to a large increase in the number of people working from home.

The challenge facing Hendrickson and her stores at that time—and the one they still face now—was figuring out how to develop a promotion that both boosted business and followed the company’s mission of leaving a positive impact on the surrounding community.

The Solutions

After a month of being closed down, Hendrickson says Super Auto Centres management knew they had to reopen their stores to keep their employees going through the pandemic.

With fewer people on the roads, though, the company needed a way to keep those employees productive.

“We knew we needed to do something big when we came back,” Hendrickson says. “We knew the only people driving around at this time—everyone else was home—were our health care workers.”

Do What You Know

That something big eventually turned into offering free oil, lube, and filter services, as well as tire rotations, to any frontline health care workers.

Not only would that promotion keep employees at all five locations that offered quick lube and oil services busy each day, but the company said in a statement it would also provide tangible, practical assistance to those “working tirelessly to ease suffering” and who “have heroically taken care of us” without forcing the locations to radically change their services.

Get Everyone On Board

When Super Auto Centres first decided to run the promotion, Hendrickson says management checked with their staff to make sure they would be up for the promotion.

“All of our employees got on board with the idea, and we were going to need all of them to do this,” she says. “Some of them had parents, siblings, relatives in the healthcare field, so it was very personal for them too.”

The five locations first ran the promotion in May 2020 for one week. In that time, between the five stores, Hendrickson says her employees gave 4,018 free oil changes--about 140 per shop per day.

“There was no way we could have ever anticipated the amount of oil changes we would be doing,” she says.

The promotion was such a success that the company ran the same promotion again in April 2021. This time, they received an even bigger response—the five stores gave more than 5,000 free oil changes in the span of a week.

The Aftermath

Hendrickson says the event was made possible through the dedication of her employees and “generous pricing” from oil suppliers. She says the company saw a large, positive impact during and immediately after that week-long promotion.

“It was insane for that week, but immediately afterward we thought we were going to slow down quite a bit. We didn’t,” Hendrickson says. “We had people coming in who had never come to us before. They were all people who had heard about the promotion and just wanted to show some gratitude for what we were doing.”

The Takeaway

The pandemic provided unique challenges and opportunities for shops to get customers in the door. For Super Auto Centres, the best path forward—both in the short and long terms—was to find a solution that not only benefited its business and employees, but also the community it serves.

“Gifts generate connection and possibilities. Some of the most important gifts we can give to those around us are time, effort, and care,” Super Auto Centres CEO Jim Brousseau said in a statement. “Our Healthcare Heroes have shown us this over the past year. They have taken care of us, and in return, we would like to thank them by taking care of their cars.”

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