Lex Brodie's Inc. has overtaken Costco Wholesale Corp. in a customer satisfaction survey in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, after the independent dealership took aim at the wholesale chain following a second-place finish last year.
The achievement, to be published this month, comes as the four-outlet dealership plans 90th birthday celebrations for its founder, Lex Brodie.
Scott Williams, general manager of Honolulu-based Lex Brodie's, said the dealership won first place for tire sales and automotive service plus second place for oil changes. Last year-the first year the Honolulu Star-Bulletin ran the public survey of area businesses-Lex Brodie's was second to Costco on tire sales and first in automotive service.
``This year we were successfully able to dethrone Costco,'' Mr. Williams told Tire Business.
The tire dealership has always been known for excellent service, but it needed to be more competitive on prices, especially with Michelin products, he said. So he dropped tire prices to be more competitive, though he still charges $20 for the full-service package.
Now, tire prices are in line with Costco's or slightly higher. The dealership continues to highlight the importance of good service, he explained, but now the end prices aren't too far ahead of Costco's, where previously customers paid more for the tire itself and even more for the service.
``We wanted to try to be a little bit more competitive and stress the service and gain back some of those customers we lost because of price,'' Mr. Williams said. ``We seem to be successful.''
The price changes were implemented in 2003's fourth quarter, and in March the company had its highest sales ever. April followed up as the second busiest month.
In addition to the newspaper award, Lex Brodie's has maintained its 98-percent customer satisfaction average from AAA surveys. That average covers 2002 through 2004.
But Mr. Williams isn't basking in these achievements for too long. His next project is planning the 90th birthday festivities in October for Mr. Brodie.
Mr. Brodie left his job at the Dole Pineapple Cannery in 1958 to own a Chevron gas station and in 1961 opened Lex Brodie's Tire Co. He opened a second location in 1972. Customer service became his hallmark, leading to a feature of Mr. Brodie in the Wall Street Journal in 1981. The dealership also was the first AAA-approved repair garage by AAA Hawaii.
Mr. Brodie sold the dealership in 1991 to John Mayo. But in 2002 the shop was forced into foreclosure and bought by Finova Group Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz., after an expansion plan by Mr. Mayo fizzled. Mr. Williams said the commercial finance company still owns the dealership and is not actively seeking a buyer.
Although the company has seen changes, Mr. Williams said Mr. Brodie's slogan, ``Thank you very much,'' still is well known in the area. Mr. Williams hopes to honor Mr. Brodie's birthday with a ``Thank you very much'' award and contest.
The contest will ask local schoolchildren to write essays about a person they want to thank. The winning essay will earn the person thanked a two-night stay at a $600 per night hotel and a gift certificate for either the student or the student's class. Many details still are being worked out.
Mr. Williams said he hopes to partner with the local newspaper to publish the winning letter, and he also wants to pass on all entries to the people thanked.
``Kids aren't always as appreciative or thankful as they should be,'' Mr. Williams explained. ``This is something we want to do to take advantage of the `Thank you very much' and do something good in the community.''
After he left the dealership, Mr. Brodie became involved with the local school board, making the contest especially attractive as a way to mark his legacy, Mr. Williams said. Mr. Brodie wanted to improve local schools because he noticed the quality of job applicants declining over his decades owning the tire company.
The dealership also will host a birthday party Oct. 2 plus other festivities. The stores will have a 90-day tire sale, starting in October, to mark the occasion. In the sale, prices on a line of performance tires will be rolled back to the price Mr. Brodie was charging in 1990.