What do NASCAR, the Pittsburgh Steelers and continuing education classes have to do with Hovis Auto and Truck Supply in New Castle, Pa.?
They are all a part of various promotions the company has sponsored over the last several years, and they are all a key ingredient to the company’s lasting success.
“Hosting these promotions helps us match a name with a face,” says Cliff Hovis, company president whose brother, Curt, is vice president. “I get to spend time with my customers and their families, and we become business partners, rather than casual business acquaintances.”
Each year Hovis has sent 150 of their customers to NASCAR and 750 of them to local dirt track races. The latter group also had use of the company’s hospitality suite at the track.
Other tried and true promotions have included:
- Tickets to each home game of the National Football League’s Pittsburgh Steelers;
- Golf outings;
- Grand openings featuring a NASCAR racecar along with customer giveaways. Dale Earnhart Jr.’s car was featured during their last three openings. Following these events, “dealer nights” featured a manufacturer trade show;
- Dealer educational classes in the fall and spring;
- The company’s annual show, which hosts more than 90 vendors.
“Because we are also Walker and Monroe distributors, we work as marketing partners with these companies to succeed in those promotions, which involve their products,” says Hovis. “We’ve pushed the ‘Expert Plus’ program to great lengths on the streets, and we’ve had the ‘Madden Cruiser’ and different Tenneco-sponsored race cars at previous events.”
“We have tried to host Monroe’s ‘Safe Driver Event,’ but we haven’t been able to secure a date,” he adds. “When we bring a special event like this to a community, it’s our way of saying ‘thank you’ to our customers.”
Hovis says one of his favorite promotions during the last four years has been the “Dirt Track Racing” event at their hospitality suite, located at a local race track.
“It enabled us to spend one-on-one time with our customers,” he adds. “Customers appreciate the time and effort that we invest in them.”
Being a member of a programmed distribution group and having close ties to his manufacturers have helped Hovis get these promotions to the streets.
“In the past, we’ve done many of these promotions with the help of manufacturers alone,” says Hovis. “By being a part of Federated Auto Parts Professionals since 1997, their impact on our business cannot be underestimated.
“The group afforded us many wonderful opportunities for growth in our business,” he adds. “Federated has given us buying power and national marketing exposure that we couldn’t have otherwise achieved.”
Besides Federated, the company also is a member of Vipar Heavy Duty, one of the largest groups of independent distributors in the nation. Realizing the importance of having an active role in the automotive aftermarket industry, Cliff sits on the board of governors with Federated and has been on many manufacturer advisory boards in the past. Curt has had his share of industry involvement by sitting on numerous industry-related advisory boards, as well.
Besides an aggressive marketing plan, Hovis says his company’s success is also largely based on the following key ingredients — a highly-experienced professional staff; a large, diverse inventory of quality name-brand parts; and competitive prices. Hovis has 100 vehicles on the road daily delivering parts within 30 minutes after an order is received.
The company also maintains a strong connection with its customers by offering a service support base of 20 outside sales professionals. The sales force represents the paint and body division (including two PBE technicians) as well as heavy-duty trucks and automotive sales sectors. Manufacturer representatives also travel with their outside sales staff on their weekly scheduled routes.
“In many cases, a customer may have numerous members of our sales staff, especially if they represent a wide range of services, in their place of business,” says Hovis. “Specialization is the key to knowing what the customer wants and needs…we follow the same approach at our stores, from top to bottom.”
Hovis Auto and Truck Wrecking first opened as a family business in 1952. By 1969, the company grew to include new parts sales and Hovis Auto and Truck Supply was formed. Since 1983, Hovis has added 10 stores along with developing a warehouse system. The company has expanded its business by adding heavy-duty truck parts and paint, body and sales.
Since promotions have really helped put their business on the map, so to speak, I asked Hovis for some words of advice for anyone thinking of hosting one:
“Treat it like any good business deal,” he says. “Plan your event in advance; set a budget; involve your sales people and your manufacturers.
“By involving all the channels of distribution, you are improving your chance for success."
The Vital Stats
Years in business: 52
Growth plans: “We’ve added a store each of the last three years,” says Hovis. “We have added 10 stores since 1983, along with developing our warehouse system. Our growth plans for the future are conservative.”
Number of stores: 11
Snapshot of Hovis Auto and Truck Supply: Originally Hovis Auto and Truck Wrecking, the company was first opened as a family business in 1952. By 1969, the company grew to include new parts sales and Hovis Auto and Truck Supply was formed. Since 1983, Hovis has added 10 stores along with developing a warehouse system. The company has also expanded its business by adding heavy-duty truck parts and paint, body and sales. Hovis also is one of the largest distributors for each of its two automotive refinish lines — DuPont and Akzo Nobel.
Number of employees: 203
Wholesale/retail ratio: 70 percent wholesale/30 percent retail
Competition: “Mostly national chains all around us, and a few traditional competitors are left,” says Hovis.
Affiliation: Federated Auto Parts Professionals and Vipar Heavy Duty
Facility size: Most of their stores are 12,000 sq. ft. with their warehouses in the range of 30,000 sq. ft.