LONGS, S.C.-Looking for a marketing ploy to boost sales and draw attention to your dealership? Consider painting the exterior a light pinkish purple, advertising your prices as the ``cheapest on Earth'' and promising to ``eat a bug'' if they're not.
That's the approach small, but successful Vaught Brothers Discount Tire has taken. And sales are up.
Vaught Brothers is a one-man tire outlet in rural Longs, about 20 miles northwest of Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The company, which sells Kelly, BFGoodrich, Michelin and Hoosier brand tires, offers tire installation and balancing, flat repairs and rotations.
Eriek Vaught is the proprietor and lone employee of the business, housed in a building owned by his mother.
Mr. Vaught said the ``eat a bug'' slogan and purple paint job were the brainstorm of his brother, Tommy, who manages a jewelry store at a nearby shopping mall. ``Really, the idea was to get people's attention,'' Mr. Vaught said.
If sales are a measure of success, the approach has worked. Since applying the purple paint and introducing the slogan in June 1993, sales have probably grown 30 percent, he said.
And so far, Mr. Vaught has avoided eating a bug.
``We've had a few people who thought they could beat the price, but they never could,'' he said, noting, ``We have no overhead, and we own the building.''
Mr. Vaught is the third generation in his family to sell tires. His grandfather, Lundy Monroe Vaught, operated an Esso gas station and tire store in the 1950s in Longs. And his father, Thomas Vaught, spent 25 years at that business. That location closed in 1980 when a new, four-lane highway was built.
The current store has been open since 1988 and was founded by Tommy Vaught and his mother. Eriek took over the business shortly thereafter.
Is Vaught Brothers profitable?
``We're doing pretty well for a small business,'' Eriek Vaught said. ``But we're not making as much as Sam's Wholesale Club.''