Since launching its Speed Shop for auto enthusiasts nearly three years ago, Pep Boys—Manny, Moe & Jack plans to continue expanding the concept to include about a dozen more stores in 2012.
Speed Shops, which are Pep Boys' answer to hot-rodders' seeking high-performance tires and accessories for their vehicles, are located in 17 Pep Boys stores on both coasts in California, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas.
“I think we've got our gunsights set on another dozen or so in 2012,” said Scott Webb, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing.
He declined to disclose which cities Philadelphia-based Pep Boys is targeting for new Speed Shops this year. He did say that the most recently opened Speed Shop was in October in Las Vegas. Pep Boys opened its first Speed Shop in downtown Los Angeles in 2009.
The shops carry performance parts in everything from ignitions, carburetors, muffler and cat-back systems, brakes, shocks and struts to drag slicks and chrome accessories. They occupy a section of a larger-than-usual Pep Boys store—about 3,000 to 5,000 square feet.
The extra square footage in the store is remodeled to fit high-performance inventory that's displayed in the front window, with the rest of the Pep Boys store wrapping around the Speed Shop. Customers of the specialized shop can use the store's normal service bays for installation of tires and other products.
The Pep Boys store itself needs to be in the right location, such as in the center or “mecca” of town, according to Mr. Webb.
Many of the general Pep Boys stores employ 30 to 40, but only one or two—including the shop manager—are dedicated to the Speed Shop and its needs.
In fact, Speed Shop managers need to be knowledgeable car enthusiasts, he said, and many of them and their employees are active in their communities' local car clubs.
Car enthusiast clubs are invited to use Speed Shops for their outings and meetings and the stores' parking lots for car shows, and the Speed Shops are given marketing budgets to promote those shows at the stores, Mr. Webb told Tire Business.
Typically, a hot rod will be displayed on the show floor, and the shop will offer several thousand SKUs of hot rod equipment, high-performance tires and accessories not found in a regular Pep Boys store, Mr. Webb said.
He declined to discuss Speed Shops' sales of high-performance tires other than to say, “We're very pleased with the performance of those stores. We're going to continue to build more.”
Mr. Webb noted that a big part of that niche for Pep Boys is that customers will come in with, say, a 4-year-old Ford Mustang, and have the Speed Shop install a supercharger in the car. It's not uncommon for the Mustang owner to go into the bay with the technician and for the tech to take the Mustang owner step by step through the installation process.
“That was sort of a surprise to us,” Mr. Webb said. “That connection, as well as the sales lift that we're experiencing across the store, really tells us that this is a successful niche for us. It's never going to be a big part of our brand, but it'll be a nice successful little niche.”