Only Part of the Story

Henry Ford promised his customers the choice of any color automobile they wanted, as long as it was black. Times have changed. A desire to provide a higher level of customer service now drives more businesses to expand their offerings in meeting a wider range of customer demands. The end result is added convenience for the customer and growth for the seller.

These are the reasons Moog Louisville, as well as numerous others, has expanded their offerings to include professional quality tools and equipment. With roots deep within the parts distribution marketplace, the company has identified and capitalized on these non-component opportunities.

Call The Pro … For Anything

“We want to be the first call for anything the shop or part store needs,” states Bill Grover, vice president of sales and marketing for ToolPro, the tool and equipment division of Moog Louisville. “Regardless of whether they need timing belts, torque wrenches or toilet paper, our goal is not just to get a customer, but to keep them, so we’ll do whatever it takes.”

Essentially, Moog Louisville is a three-armed warehouse distribution company, with:

  • 16 company-owned stores. Primarily focused on parts, paint and body shop supplies, these glass-front retail centers also sell tools and equipment to the end-user or installer. The stores are part of the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance, which combines the purchasing and marketing power of the Auto Value and Bumper To Bumper brand names. They comprise about 3,500 square feet and operate much like a franchised mobile tool dealer.
  • A parts warehouse business that sells to larger national repair chains, but primarily fulfills the company-owned parts stores, as well as independent jobber businesses in the Louisville area.
  • ToolPro, a tool and equipment distribution division that services both distributors and end-users.

Initially started over 50 years ago as Louisville Auto Springs by Dean Washbish, the company specialized in selling and servicing leaf springs for cars and trucks. As trends in part replacement changed, Moog Chassis Parts became the company’s first major outside vendor, hence the name change. The company is currently owned by the founder’s son, Doug.

ToolPro was started 15 years ago as a way for Moog Louisville to meet their customer's and company stores’ tool and equipment needs. “Initially, we simply wanted to avoid farming out the selling and servicing of these products, but things have gradually gotten much bigger,” states Grover.

ToolPro, which is managed by Steve Cushing, currently sells an even mix of both tools and equipment. While equipment sales are obviously a shop buy, tools cater more to the individual technician. And although the size of Moog Louisville provides them with greater resources in terms of purchasing and storage, Grover admits that tools are perceived as a much different animal to most parts distributors.

“Tools can be tough for part stores,” he states. “They’re seen as a specialty. Parts are easier to inventory because you can track vehicle registrations and forecast what will be needed. Tools are more difficult because of specific requests for particular brands, etc. What it comes down to is just trying to be responsive and find out exactly what the customer wants, and then do all we can to get it for them.

“In the end, we’re growing all areas of a store’s business because they can provide everything at one stop.” Another advantage Moog Louisville offers is that all of their company-owned stores are on the same computer system for shipping, pricing and availability. This means one phone call or request provides access to every store, as well as the warehouse inventory.

In addition to servicing their collection of company stores, Moog Louisville and ToolPro also work with over 40 independent part stores and nearly 2,500 shop accounts within a 75-mile radius of Louisville. They even supply a hand full of mobile tool dealers in the area, and provide referral fees in facilitating sales, primarily of equipment, that the mobile distributors prefer not to handle themselves.

To ensure enough product is in stock to meet the needs of all these customers, the Moog Louisville compound includes four separate warehouse buildings, with tools and equipment consuming about 1/3 of this space.

ToolPro might need more, but again, the company’s overall structure enables them to do some unique things, like buy and ship directly from equipment manufacturers. By contrast, some tools are purchased direct, but it’s usually more economical to work through their Alliance affiliation or a national tool and equipment distributor.

But regardless of what they’re selling or from whom they’re buying it, Grover states that customer service is the key, especially for equipment.

“When a piece of equipment goes down, the shop is losing money, which is why we have people in house who are trained to repair equipment. We also offer installation of new equipment, provide access to loaner units and they always get my personal reassurance that things will be taken care of. Sometimes this means going to work for a customer in dealing with the manufacturer. We try to be an advocate for the shop in getting them back in business.”

Knowledge Is Power

In working to build their tool and equipment business, ToolPro also sponsors a number of customer-focused events, such as:

  • Training seminars on a wide range of topics at their in-house tech training center. They’ve even held seminars at the famous Churchill Downs horse racing track to help improve attendance.
  • The company’s outside sales force uses fliers from K-Tool, OTC and others to help drive store and shop interest.
  • “Thank you” events where shop owners and technicians can bring their family to a Louisville Bats minor league baseball game.
  • Selling shows held right at the warehouse.

“We do all of these things to help ensure that we’re carrying the right products at the right price and that we’re delivering them on time,” states Grover. “We survey our customers on a regular basis to make sure we’re following up with service after the sale and staying on top of the problems they face.

"Our goal is to develop a personal relationship and earn their trust. We’re not here just to sell them, but to serve as an advisor for what’s coming down the road, and be their partner in providing the information, tool or part that they need.”